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Vatican

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Inside look at Pope's meeting with abuse survivors: 'most striking was the atmosphere'

2014-07-10

For Fr. Hans Zollner, the Mass Pope Francis celebrated for victims of sexual abuse, and his lengthy one-on-one meetings, were more than kind gestures.

FR. HANS ZOLLNER
Commission for the Protection of Minors
"These meetings were of a truly great human and spiritual depth. They have certainly impacted the victims and we can probably say that it also impacted the Holy Father.”

The German Jesuit, a member of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, served as the interpreter for two of the six victims. He said the Pope spoke little, and listed closely to their stories. Near the end, one of the victims asked him to never forget what he had just heard.

FR. HANS ZOLLNER
Commission for the Protection of Minors
"Most striking was the atmosphere. An atmosphere, like one of the victims described it, of sensibility, listening, and great respect.”

This atmosphere carried on from the night before, when Pope Francis briefly greeted several of the victims during dinnertime at Casa Santa Marta.

FR. HANS ZOLLNER
Commission for the Protection of Minors
"One of the victims made a small gesture with his hand when he saw the Pope, and he took the time to greet them briefly. He went around the table greeting members of the Commission and victims.”

Several victims chose to attend the meeting with the Pope joined by a family member or friend. Some shared their stories, while others chose to have a more informal conversation. Overall, the majority said the meeting was worth their time. 

FR. HANS ZOLLNER
Commission for the Protection of Minors
"One of them told me, for example: 'From the moment I was asked to come, I accepted and came. Something happened within me, as if a piece of salvation had come to me. To hear how moved and how truly involved they felt during this meeting, not just with the Pope himself, but also in the preparation, it's a great gift for me.”

The Commission for the Protection of Minors will return to work, coming off from the positive feedback surrounding this meeting. One of their proposals is to expand the Commission from eight to 15 members, and include representatives from Asia, Oceania and Africa.


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