PHILADELPHIA (WHTM) – Pope Francis says he deeply regrets the suffering and pain of children who were sexually abused by priests.
The pope told bishops attending the World Meeting of Families that “God weeps” because people who were in charge of the care of children violated them and caused them serious harm.
The pope spoke to the bishops and others at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, where he spent the night during his two-day visit to Philadelphia. He told the bishops he had just met with a group of people who were abused as children.
“The crimes and sins of sexual abuse of children can not be kept secret any longer,” he said. “I agree to the zealous vigilance of the church to protect children and promise that those responsible will pay account.”
“Abuse survivors have become heralds of hope and true ministers of mercy,” Francis said, “We owe each of them and their families our gratitude for your immense value to shine the light of Christ over evil sexual abuse.”
The pope told people who were abused as children he is “profoundly sorry” their innocence was violated by those they trusted. He called the abuse a “terrible violation of human dignity,” according to a transcript provided by the Vatican.
“I am deeply sorry for the times when you or your family spoke out, to report the abuse, but you were not heard or believed,” he said. “Please know that the Holy Father hears you and believes you.”
“I deeply regret that some bishops failed in their responsibility to protect children,” he said. “It is very disturbing to know that in some cases bishops even were abusers. I pledge to you that we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead. Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children.”
A grand jury in 2011 accused the Philadelphia archdiocese of sheltering more than three dozen priests accused of child sexual abuse and lying about it to victims and others.
In a second event Sunday morning that was closed to the public, Francis met with select inmates and their families at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility.
The Associated Press reported that Monsignor William Lynn, a Philadelphia Archdiocese priest, had been jailed at Curran-Fromhold for his handling of sexual abuse complaints, but was moved to a state prison in northeastern Pennsylvania shortly after the pope’s itinerary was announced.