January 16, 2018
By Peter Prengerman and Nicole Winfield
Pope Francis met on Tuesday with survivors of priests who sexually abused them, wept with them and apologized for the “irreparable damage” they suffered, his spokesman said.
The pontiff also acknowledged the “pain” of priests who have been held collectively responsible for the crimes of a few, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke told reporters at the end of the day.
Francis dove head-first into Chile’s sex abuse scandal on his first full day in Santiago that came amid unprecedented opposition to his visit: Three more churches were torched overnight, including one burned to the ground in the southern Araucania region where Francis celebrates Mass on Wednesday. Police used tear gas and water cannons to break up an anti-pope protest outside Francis’ big open-air Mass in the capital, Santiago.
Despite the incidents, huge numbers of Chileans turned out to see the pope, including an estimated 400,000 for his Mass, and he brought some inmates to tears with an emotional visit to a women’s prison.
But his meeting with abuse survivors and comments in his first speech of the day were what many Chileans, incensed by years of abuse scandal and cover-up, were waiting for.
Tens of thousands of jubilant Chileans turned out in droves for Pope Francis’ first public Mass, a huge gathering in the capital’s O’Higgins Park. Demonstrators marching against poverty clashed with riot police as they attempted to reach the celebration. (Jan. 16)
Burke said Francis met with a small group of abuse victims after lunch, listening to their stories and praying with them. The spokesman gave no details, other than to say the pope “listened to them, prayed with them and wept with them.”
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