The Pope met with the eight survivors in the Vatican, spending an hour and half listening to their experiences with the help of a translator.
Pope Francis has asked for forgiveness from a group of UK and Irish sex abuse survivors during what has been described as an emotional meeting in the Vatican’s apostolic palace.
The group, who met with Francis on 13 June, attended St Peter Claver College in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, where widespread sexual abuse is detailed to have occurred during the 1960s and 70s. The college was a junior seminary, a secondary-level boarding school for boys who had expressed an interest in the priesthood, and it was run by the Verona Fathers, an Italian religious order known as the Comboni Missionaries.
Their meeting with Francis is a landmark moment for the group in their years-long struggle to have their suffering recognised by the Comboni Order who have continually refused to meet with the survivors or officially acknowledge that abuse took place. The 13 June meeting is the first one between this Pope and a group of UK and Irish abuse victims.
Bede Mullen, the spokesman of the Comboni Survivors Group, told The Tablet that the Pope was “visibly shaken and upset” by what he heard during the discussions and on two occasions he asked for forgiveness for what had taken place. “He asked for forgiveness for himself and for the Church, and that to me was genuine,” Mr Mullen said.
Mr Mullen added that the Pope said he would personally ring the leader of the Comboni order instructing them to meet the group and that any meeting should take place without lawyers present.