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Pope Francis has private meetings with abused Chilean priests

Chilean clerical sex abuse survivors Juan Carlos Cruz and James Hamilton are pictured on a journalist's phone as they speak to the media at the Foreign Press Association building in Rome on May 2, 2018 (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A group of five priests who suffered abuse said they felt welcomed and comforted after meeting Pope Francis on Saturday.

The Pope asked forgiveness for the abuse and cover-ups by members of the Church, said Fr Francisco Astaburuaga Ossa, who went with the survivors to the Vatican.

The Chilean Church has recently experienced a great number of sexual abuse scandals, and the visit was meant to allow the Pope to understand “the reality lived by some of the faithful and Chilean clergy,” the Vatican said.

Pope Francis attended Mass with the priests in addition to holding both private and group meetings.

Abuse survivor Fr Eugenio de la Fuente Lora came to the meeting with “gratitude for the Pope’s invitation, the comfort of knowing that we will meet with Peter, with the Holy Father, and also hope.”

He afterwards stated that the Pope exceeded his expectations.

“I have an immense gratitude for his welcoming. I was greatly comforted to be completely understood by an admirably empathetic person, who suffered with my pain, and I have great hope because he has a very ample and profound understanding of the problem,” de la Fuente Lora said.

According to a spokesperson from the Vatican, the Pope hopes this visit will help with the healing process in Chile.

“With the help of these five priests, the Pope seeks to remedy the internal rupture of the community. Thus, rebuilding a healthy relationship between the faithful and their shepherds can begin, once all are conscious of their own wounds,” the Vatican said.

The Pope addressed a plan for steps to take moving forward, including both short-term and long-term goals, although specific details were not given.