Pope Francis will meet for the first time with eight victims of sexual abuse committed by priests at Casa Santa Marta. Boston Card. Sean O'Malley will join him for the private meeting, which will take place in the first days of June.
In a press conference on board the return flight from the Holy Land, the Pope reiterated the Church's zero tolerance policy, and denied that some clerics enjoy certain privileges. He also revealed that three bishops are currently under investigation for allegedly covering up abuse.
"A priest that does this betrays the body of the Lord, because these priests need to lead this boy, this girl, this young man, this young woman, to holiness. And this boy, this girl, they trust him. And this priest, instead of leading them to holiness, abuses them. This is very serious. It's like... I'll give you a comparison: it's like a Satanic Mass. You have to lead them to holiness, and instead you give them a problem that lasts their entire life.”
Pope Francis also addressed financial scandals within the Vatican. He said there will always be scandals, because humans are also sinners. But he added that honesty and transparency are the key to good economic management.
When asked about married clergy, the Pope explained that celibacy in the priesthood is not a "dogma,” but a "rule of life,” which he said he appreciated greatly and considered it to be "a gift for the Church.” But he admitted that there are other priorities. When asked if he'd consider stepping down, like Benedict XVI, Pope Francis said he would listen to God's will.
"Seventy years ago bishop emeritus did not exist. Today we have so many. What will happen with Popes emeritus? I think we should look at it as an institution, that he opened the door to, that of Popes emeritus. Will there be more? Only God knows. But the door is open.”
On the topic of divorced and remarried Catholics, the Pope said they should not be treated as "strangers.” He added that they will address this complex issue during the Synod of the Family, looking into several aspects like communion and the current process for marriage annulments.
Speaking about other challenges that the Church faces today, Pope Francis denounced yet again the current economic crisis, and the "throw away culture” it creates. But in addition to the elderly and defenseless, he talked about its effect on the large number of youth employment worldwide.
"This means that there is an entire generation of young people that do not study and do not work, and this is very serious. En entire generation of young people is cast off. This throw away culture is very serious.”
During the press conference, Pope Francis insisted that dialogue is the only way to achieve peace in the Holy Land. He added that this dialogue should also decide on the status of Jerusalem, which he said should be the capital of the three major monotheistic religions.
Lastly, the Pope also confirmed he will travel to Asia not only in August, but early next year. He will visit South Korea in a few months. Meanwhile in January, he will travel to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, where he will tour several areas destroyed by the typhoon last year.