The Pope’s Meeting with Sex-Abuse Victims

Pope Francis said Sunday that he was “profoundly sorry” for the Catholic Church’s scandal.

Tony Gentile / Reuters

Pope Francis addressed the Catholic Church’s sex-abuse scandal on Sunday.

“I hold the stories and the suffering and the sorry of children who were sexually abused by priests deep in my heart. I remain overwhelmed with shame that men entrusted with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused grievous harm,” he said in unscripted remarks before a speech in Philadelphia. “I am profoundly sorry. God weeps.”

Francis said that “the crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children must no longer be held in secret,” according to a transcript provided by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“I pledge the zealous vigilance of the church to protect children and the promise of accountability for all,” he said.

This weekend, Francis met privately with three women and two men who suffered sex abuse as minors, according to the Vatican's English language press representative. They were accompanied by several clergy members, including Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, whom Francis named to a Vatican anti-abuse commission last spring. More on the meeting from the representative:

The Pope spoke with visitors, listening to their stories and offering them a few words together as a group and later listening to each one individually. He then prayed with them and expressed his solidarity in sharing their suffering, as well as his own pain and shame in especially in the case of injury caused them by clergy or church workers.

Francis vowed to punish offenders:

He renewed the commitment of the Church to the effort that all victims are heard and treated with justice, that the guilty be punished and that the crimes of abuse be combated with an effective prevention activity in the Church and in society.

The pope is wrapping up his first-ever visit to the United States, which he began in Washington earlier this week.