Pope Francis had a discreet meeting with victims of clerical sexual abuse in Portugal during his Apostolic Visit to celebrate World Youth Day 2023.
Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office confirmed the encounter took place at the Apostolic Nunciature Wednesday, the first day of the pontiff’s visit in Lisbon.
In a statement, Bruni said Pope Francis “received in the Nunciature a group of 13 people, victims of abuse by members of the clergy, who were accompanied by several representatives of the Portuguese Church institutions in charge of the protection of minors.”
The Vatican News reported that Bruni has specifically said the meeting took place “in an atmosphere of intense listening and lasted over an hour”.
The private meeting was held after the pope attended Vespers in Lisbon’s Jeronimos Monastery where he called on clergy to combat clerical sexual abuse and always listen to the victims.
Early this year, the Independent Commission for the Study of Sexual Abuse of Children in the Catholic Church in Portugal reported there were at least 4,800 victims of clerical sexual abuse.
The commission released validated testimonies relating to the cases that occurred between 1950 and 2022.
Pope Francis convened the first-ever global summit in the Vatican in February 2019 to tackle the scourge of abuse within the Church.
He has since introduced several changes to canon law to hold offenders accountable, promote a shift in mindset, and safeguard the welfare of young people and vulnerable individuals.