In a move that could truly be described as a breakthrough after more than six years of crisis for the church in the United States and decades of agony for victims, Pope Benedict XVI this afternoon met with several victims of clergy abusers.
The story is developing but the AP report says that Benedict and Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley met with a group of five or six victims for about 25 minutes in the chapel of the papal embassy, offering them encouragement and hope.
Lombardi said the pope told the survivors he would pray for them, their families and all victims of clergy sex abuse. Each of the victims spent a few minutes with Benedict privately. Some were in tears during the meeting, said papal spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi.
In the meeting, O’Malley presented Benedict with a notebook listing more than 1,000 names of victims of sexual abuse from the Boston Archdiocese.
Gary Bergeron, an outspoken survivor of clergy sex abuse from Boston who was not in Thursday’s session, called Thursday’s meeting “a long-sought-for step in the right direction.”
“The Catholic Church is partly based on symbolism, and I think the symbolism had he not met with survivors would have been horrendous,” the 45-year-old Bergeron said.
As victims rights groups have said, actions speak louder than words, and this action–so simple, so pastoral, so direct–has I think done more to move the Church through the crisis than anything else to date. It doesn’t take much, and great credit goes to the pope and esepcially to the victims and the news media and lay leaders, whose efforts unmasked the crisis and helped push the church to this point of reconciliation.
This doesn’t mean the scandal–much less the pain and agony–is history. No one can say that except the victims, and no one should think their crisis will ever be fully resolved. Closure is a meaningless word at times like these.
Yet this is a vital step. More to come. The survivors who met with Benedict are expected to release a statement.