Pope Francis has begged forgiveness from the victims of clergy sex abuse in his first meeting with abuse survivors.
The Vatican quoted Francis as expressing “sorrow” in his homily at a private Mass with six victims today for the “sins and grave crimes” of clerical sex abuse against them.
The Pope added: “I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately.”
Earlier, Vatican spokesman the Reverend Federico Lombardi said two Irish, two British and two German victims had met separately for about 30 minutes apiece with Francis at the pope’s Vatican hotel.
He said Francis had already greeted the six on Sunday evening at dinner.
Other abuse survivors not at the meeting said the encounter will not ease complaints that the Vatican has failed to punish bishops and other prelates who systemically covered up the abuse of minors.
A German survivor advocacy spokesman, Norbert Denef, called the meeting “nothing more than a PR event”.
Francis pledged ``not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not'' and promised that bishops ``will be held accountable''.
He said the failure to respond adequately to reports of abuse had “led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused and it endangered other minors who were at risk”.
Francis noted the abuse caused some victims to resort to addictions or even suicide.
“These deaths of these so beloved children of God weigh upon the heart and my conscience and that of the whole church,” he said.
The three men and three women who had been sexually abused as youths by clergy met privately with Francis. Each of them were allowed to have a relative or other person accompany them, as well as someone to translate.
“Before God and his people, I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness,” Francis said in his homily.
None of the victims wanted to speak to reporters, Mr Lombardi said.
One Irish survivor of sex abuse by clergy, Marie Collins, has already spent time at the Vatican this year because she serves on a panel set up by Francis to help deal with the scandals staining the church’s reputation in many countries.