During the Mass the Pope expressed his own “sorrow” for the “sins and grave crimes” of sexual abuse carried out against them.
“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.
He pledged “not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not” and said bishops “will be held accountable.”
“I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves.”
He continued, “This led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused and it endangered other minors who were at risk.”
Francis also mentioned the number of survivors of abuse who had resorted to addictions or even suicide deal with their pain.
He said, “These deaths of these so beloved children of God weigh upon the heart and my conscience and that of the whole church.”
Pope Francis met with the survivors before the mass. Dubliner Marie Kane, one of the Irish survivors present, described the meeting as a “huge vindication” for her. However, German survivor advocacy spokesman, Norbert Denef, told AP that the gathering at the Vatican was nothing but “a PR event.”
The 43-year-old Kane said that the Pope had appeared to be frustrated by what he heard. He allowed the victims to speak at length.
Kane told the Irish Independent, “He is really humble. There was no pomp or ceremony and plus he is not really tall, so he is not towering over you which is really nice. He holds eye contact very well.”
She added that the meeting had “been very good to me.”
Vatican spokesman Reverend Federico Lombardi said two Irish, two British and two German survivors had met with the pope. They spoke with the pope for about 30 minutes each at the Vatican residence.
In May Pope Francis spoke about the Catholic Church’s failings in dealing with abuse.
He gave his strongest response on the abuse to date saying, “sexual abuse is such an ugly crime ... it is like a satanic mass.”
At that time he also promised to meet with the survivors during the summer.