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This is how Benedict XVI's first meeting with victims of abuse came about

Card. Fernando Filoni was in charge of organizing the first meeting between a pope and abuse victims. It took place in the United States, during Pope Benedict XVI's apostolic visit in 2008.

Card. Filoni was the Substitute of the Vatican's Secretariat of State at the time.

"As substitute, I was in charge of papal trips during that period. And Benedict XVI wanted to talk to me, and he asked me what I thought about the possibility of meeting with victims of abuse and how to go about it."

The petition for such a meeting was on the table, but it was a delicate matter, as a meeting of that nature was unprecedented and its outcome uncertain.

They decided to have a discreet meeting with just a few people, which later led to some protests by victims who had not been invited.

"Benedict XVI wanted to make sure not to lose sight of two aspects. The first was respect for the victims. He wanted to protect their identity, which is why he did not want TV cameras there. The other thing was that he did not want this meeting to merely be a show of good will, a sort of quick audience where everyone goes their separate ways as soon as it's over. He wanted this meeting to be, above all, a spiritual and prayerful encounter."

Citing initiatives like this one, Card. Fernando Filoni responds to people who criticize Benedict XVI for being insensitive toward victims or for his response to abuse cases.

"I can affirm that he faced this matter with great intellectual and moral honesty. For me, this honesty, which some people sometimes doubt, is unquestionable. This is my testimony. I was an eyewitness and, in this situation, I feel it is my duty to share these things with people who are not aware of them. This is the Pope Benedict XVI I know."

Card. Fernando Filoni also recalls how Pope Benedict XVI promoted significant legislative reforms within the Church to prevent and condemn abuse. He says the Pope was visibly ashamed by the situation, and argues that his concrete efforts to address the matter should not be forgotten.