Pope Francis has met and prayed with a small group of victims of child sexual abuse in the US, saying “God weeps” for their suffering.
Speaking after the meeting, the Pope promised to hold accountable those responsible for the scandal in the church.
The Roman Catholic Church in the US has been embroiled in a series of child sex scandals and many abuse survivors are angry at how the Vatican has dealt with allegations..
US dioceses have made huge compensation payouts to victims.
The Pope met the five victims, all now adults who had suffered sexual abuse as children, this morning at a seminary in Pennsylvania, his spokesman said.
The group – three women and two men – had been abused by clergy, family members or teachers, Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement.
Each was accompanied by a family member, he added.
The Pope was “overwhelmed with shame that men entrusted with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused grievous harm,” he told bishops on the final day of his visit to the US.
The Pope listened to the survivors’ stories, prayed with them, and expressed his “pain and shame” in the case of those harmed by clergy or church workers, Fr Lombardi said.
The Pope “renewed his commitment” to ensure that victims are treated with justice, the guilty are punished, and to effective prevention in the church and in society, the statement said.
In June the Pope approved the creation of a tribunal to hear cases of bishops accused of covering up child abuse by pedophile priests.