Ever attentive to the scourge of abuse within the Church, and to those most affected by it, Pope Francis met with a number of victims of abuse during his Apostolic Journey in Portugal. It isn’t the first time the Holy Father sets aside time during an international trip to meet with victims of abuse.
This meeting with a group of 13 people, accompanied by representatives of several Church organizations responsible for the protection of minors, took place on Wednesday evening, 2 August, at the Apostolic Nunciature in Lisbon. The Holy See Press Office reported that the meeting took place “in an atmosphere of intense listening” and lasted for over an hour.
Last February, an independent commission established by the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference published a report to shed light on the phenomenon, corroborating 512 out of the 564 testimonies it had received related to cases of abuse that took place between 1950 and 2022. The Portuguese Episcopal Conference met in an extraordinary plenary assembly in Fatima, on 3 March, to analyse the report and discuss next steps. This is another reason why the Pope’s encounter at the Apostolic Nunciature, which was expected but not officially scheduled, was so significant.
This meeting in Lisbon followed the celebration of Vespers in the Jerónimos Monastery with bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, men and women religious, deacons, seminarians and pastoral workers — in sum, a mosaic of representatives of the Catholic Church in Portugal.
During his homily at the celebration, Pope Francis stressed that the purpose of his visit to Portugal was to share the ecclesial journey, with all its struggles, with the faithful. The Holy Father also spoke of the scandals that have “marred” the face of the Church and which call her members to “a humble, ongoing purification, starting with the anguished cry of the victims, who must always be accepted and listened to”. It was a powerful reminder of the reality of abuse, which the Church in Portugal has also had to address head-on.