By Philip Pullella and Dave Sherwood
Pope Francis publicly expressed “pain and shame” on Tuesday over the rape and molestation of children by priests in Chile and later listened, prayed and cried at a private meeting with victims.
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the meeting took place in the Vatican embassy in Santiago.
“No one else was present. Only the pope and the victims,” the spokesman said. “This was so they could speak of their suffering to Pope Francis, who listened to them and prayed and cried with them.”
It was only the second time on his overseas trips that the pope has met victims of sexual abuse, although he has met some at the Vatican. The last meeting on a trip was in Philadelphia in 2015.
Burke declined to give details, but his statement came at the end of an intense day for the pope, during which he spoke of sexual abuse twice, once asking forgiveness for abuses he said had done “irreparable damage” to victims.
The Argentine pontiff made his first remarks at the presidential palace, La Moneda, an unusual choice because the pope usually talks about sexual abuse to Church leaders and not politicians.
But the scandal has gripped the nation, prompting many politicians to criticizes the Church in the staunchly Catholic country, where the crisis has scarred its credibility.
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