POPE Francis will meet with a group of sex abuse victims for the first time in June, he told reporters on May 26.
The pope described the abuse of children by priests as “such an ugly crime” and a “very grave” problem, the betrayal of a priest’s duty to lead young people to holiness, comparable to performance of a Black Mass.
“We must move ahead, ahead, zero tolerance,” he said.
As an indication of how seriously he takes the problem, the pope said he would meet in the first week of June with a group of six to eight sex abuse victims from various countries, including Germany, England and Ireland. He also will celebrate a private Mass with the group in the Vatican guesthouse, where he lives.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, a member of the recently established Vatican commission on child protection, will be present at the gathering, the pope said.
Pope Francis is not known ever to have met with a group of sex abuse victims, something Pope Benedict did several times in various countries. Marie Collins, a sex abuse survivor from Ireland whom the pope named to the child protection commission, met him at the Vatican in May.
Pope Francis said the church cannot have privileged “daddy’s boys,” exempt from punishment when it comes to sex abuse of minors.
He revealed that three unnamed bishops are currently under investigation by the Holy See for misdeeds related to sex abuse, and another has been found guilty and is awaiting punishment.
It was not clear if the bishops in question had been accused of personally abusing children or of mishandling accusations of abuse against other priests.
The pope also was asked about reports that Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who as Holy See secretary of state was considered the highest Vatican official, mishandled 15 million euro (about $20.5 million) in funds held by the Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican bank.
“It’s something being studied, it’s not clear,” the pope said.
“Maybe it’s the truth, but at this moment it’s not definitive.”
Asked if he might follow his predecessor’s lead and ever resign, Pope Francis said he would pray for the wisdom to obey God’s will, but added that Pope Benedict had “opened the door” to the possibility of other retired popes and would not remain a “unique case.”
Discussing what he has frequently called a “throwaway culture,” the pope said it was exemplified not only by youth unemployment and neglect of the elderly, problems he has cited before, but also by low fertility rates in Europe, particularly in Italy and Spain.
And he announced he plans to visit the Philippines and Sri Lanka in January.