UPDATED: May 27, 2014 00:17 GMT
Pope Francis spoke out against sexual
abuse by Catholic clergy on Monday and
said he plans to meet with victims in early
Stressing that such abuse constitutes a
horrific crime, he told reporters aboard the
papal plane that three bishops are under
It was not clear whether the bishops are
under investigation for alleged abuse, or
for purported involvement in some sort of
A priest who abuses a child betrays the
body of the Lord, the Pope said, according
to pool reports. He called for zero
The meeting at the Vatican will not be the
first time a pope has met with sexual abuse
victims, according to John L. Allen Jr.,
CNN’s senior Vatican analyst. However, it
will mark the first time Pope Francis has
“This is a clear indication that Francis is
trying to get the message out that he ‘gets
it’ about the need to confront the church’s
abuse scandals,” Allen said.
Among the expected invitees to the
meeting are abuse victims from Germany,
England and Ireland, and Cardinal Sean
O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston.
Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the
cardinal, said the time and date of the
meeting have not been finalized.
“Cardinal O’Malley has been asked by the
Holy Father to assist with the planning for
a meeting with survivors of sexual abuse in
the coming months,” said Donilon. “The
cardinal looks forward to supporting this
effort by Pope Francis in whatever manner
will be most helpful.”
The pontiff spoke as he was returning to
Rome from a three-day trip to the Middle
East.During that trip, the Pope extended an
invitation to the leaders of Israel and the
Palestinian Authority to travel to the
Vatican for peace talks.
In comments aboard the plane, he clarified
the talks would not focus on finding a
“It will be a meeting of prayer,” he said.
The Pope also appeared to open the door
to the possibility he might resign one day,
like his predecessor, if he no longer had the
strength to carry on.
“I think that Pope Benedict XVI was not a
unique case,” Francis told reporters. “I will
do what God tells me to do.”
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