In an emotional encounter in the chapel of the Apostolic Nunciature, Pope Benedict XVI met privately on Thursday with several victims of clergy sexual abuse. The victims present were all middle-aged and did not wish to be identified. The meeting began at 4:15 PM and lasted for 20 to 25 minutes.
The pontiff prayed the Hail Mary, the Our Father and the Glory Be with the victims. Following this, the Holy Father made comments that echoed his prior statements on the subject made during speeches on the flight to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, at the Meeting with Bishops on Wednesday and earlier Thursday at the Holy Mass at Nationals Park Stadium.
Each victim was then able to approach the Holy Father. In tearful exchanges, the victims individually shared their experience of pain and suffering with Pope Benedict.
Present at the meeting was Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who presented the Holy Father with a book containing the names of 1000 individuals sexually abused by clerics of the Boston Archdiocese over previous decades.
Asked by a journalist what inspired this meeting, Vatican spokesperson Fr. Federico Lombardi stated that he did not know as he was not part of the planning. However, speaking in Italian, Fr. Lombardi assured reporters that Pope Benedict was involved in the preparation of this meeting and was eager to personally participate.