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Pope Francis greets French abuse victims at Vatican

Pope Francis uses a cane to walk at his general audience on Nov. 29, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Nov 29, 2023 / 09:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met a group of abuse victims from France at his residence on Tuesday afternoon after assuring them in a written message of his commitment to eradicate abuse in the Church.

The greeting at the pope’s Santa Marta residence followed a meeting the group of 21 victims had with the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors on the morning of Nov. 28.

Francis had been scheduled to receive the group on Monday, but the appointment was canceled due to his ongoing illness, which the Vatican has said is “influenza and inflammation of the respiratory tract.”

The Vatican meetings were organized by the Commission for Recognition and Reparation, a group formed to support abuse victims following the release of the final report by the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church in France in 2021.

The people who met Pope Francis on Tuesday were victims of Brother Gabriel Girard, a member of the Montfort Brothers of St. Gabriel, who abused them in the 1960s and 1970s in France.

In a written message delivered to the abuse victims on the morning of Nov. 28, Pope Francis said: “I speak to you today, not in person as I had hoped, but comforted by the fact that my words will be transmitted to you by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.”

Pope Francis, who will turn 87 next month, was still having difficulty speaking during his weekly public audience on Wednesday morning.

The pope said in his message to victims that he renewed “the nonnegotiable task of the Church for the realization and the verification of the policies of safeguarding and of the professional standards in the human formation of our clergy and our religious, as well as the research of safe environments in our schools.”

He thanked the group for their “courage and endurance” and assured them of his prayers.

Francis also recalled that the reason he instituted the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was to protect children and other vulnerable people from experiencing “the greatest evil in a place in which you — with your families — searched for that which is true and good. The subversion of the rights of a child through violence and abuse is a betrayal of our God-given humanity.”

“I asked the commission to listen to your words in my name and to collect your testimonies so that they can strengthen and inspire our common task to eradicate the abuses in our Church and in our communities. We can do it only together, all together, each person doing his part to break the silence of abuses,” he said.

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