updated 8:58 AM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
By Holly Yan,CNN
(CNN) — Pope Francis met Monday with six victims of sexual abuse by clergy members, acknowledging that the failure of church leaders to act led to greater suffering.
“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 a homily during Mass with the victims, according to a text of the statement provided by the Vatican.
“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 said. “This led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused and it endangered other minors who were at risk.”
He said “sins of clerical sexual abuse against minors have a toxic effect on faith and hope in God.
The six sex abuse victims — three men and three women from Britain, Ireland and Germany — each met privately with Francis for about 30 minutes, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told reporters.
The meeting Monday took place at the Pope’s private residence, a Vatican guesthouse called the Casa Santa Marta. It was Francis’ first meeting with sex abuse victims since becoming pope.
Lombardi said they emerged moved by what he described as a “profound spiritual encounter and dialogue.”
Despite complaints from groups critical of the church’s handling of sex abuse scandals that the meeting was little more than a stunt, Lombardi said it was “absolutely clear it was not a public relations event.”
Francis became Pope in March 2013. While critics have said he should have met with victims earlier, Francis has said he believes the Church has been unfairly attacked.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, was asked by the Pope to help organize the meeting, the cardinal’s spokesman said.
O’Malley is a member of a new commission spearheaded by Francis — the Commission for the Protection of Minors — to advise him on ways to help move forward after the Church’s sex abuse crisis.
One member of the group is a woman who was a sex abuse victim.
Victims of clergy sex abuse hear Pope Francis seek forgiveness
Church’s inadequate response led to ‘even greater suffering’ by victims, Pope admits
The Associated Press Posted: Jul 07, 2014 10:19 AM ET Last Updated: Jul 07, 2014 10:19 AM ET
Pope Francis begged forgiveness Monday from the victims of clergy sex abuse as he held his first meeting with several abuse survivors — but another victim called the gathering nothing more than “a PR event.”
The Vatican quoted Francis as expressing personal “sorrow” in his homily at a private Mass with six victims for the `’sins and grave crimes” of clerical sex abuse against them.
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.”
‘These deaths of these so beloved children of God weigh upon the heart and my conscience and that of the whole church.’– Pope Francis
“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,” the pope said.
`’This led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused and it endangered other minors who were at risk,” the pope said, according to the English translation of his homily, which was delivered in Spanish.
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.
Advocacy groups for clerical abuse survivors have denounced the Vatican repeatedly for failing to fire or otherwise discipline bishops and other prelates who routinely shuffled known pedophile priests from parish to parish without alerting parishioners to the danger.
Other abuse survivors not at the meeting said the encounter would likely do nothing about their complaints 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 Monday’s meeting `’nothing more than a PR event.”
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said two Irish, two British and two German victims met with the pope. The three men and three women who had been sexually abused as youths by clergy met privately for about a half-hour each with Francis at his Vatican residence.
Humbly ask forgiveness
`’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 with reporters, Lombardi said. Francis had already greeted the group Sunday evening while the six were dining at the hotel. The six were allowed to have a relative or other person accompany them, as well as someone to translate in the private conversation with the pope.
Pope Benedict met several times with abuse victims, starting in 2008. Francis, on his trip back from the Middle East in May, promised he would meet with victims this summer.
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 him deal with the scandals staining the church’s reputation in many countries. She would likely have had opportunities to meet with the pontiff.