Pope Francis will meet victims of clergy sexual abuse during his trip to Ireland this weekend, the Vatican said on Tuesday, as scandals in several countries mire the Catholic Church in its worst credibility crisis in more than 15 years.
Last week a grand jury in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania released the findings of the largest-ever investigation of sex abuse in the U.S. Church, finding that 301 priests in the state had sexually abused minors over the past 70 years.
The damning U.S. report, combined with scandals in Australia and Chile, have coalesced to form what one Vatican official called “a perfect storm” not seen since the first abuse crisis erupted in Boston in 2002.
On Monday, Francis wrote an unprecedented letter to all Catholics, asking each one of them to help root out “this culture of death” and vowing there would be no more cover-ups.
Spokesman Greg Burke told reporters at a briefing on the Aug. 25-26 trip that details of the meeting would not be announced until after it was over and it would be up to the victims if they wanted to speak afterwards.
This is normal procedure for when the pope meets victims of clergy abuse during his trips outside Rome.
The main purpose of the trip to Ireland, the first by a pope in nearly 40 years, is to close a week-long international Catholic gathering on the theme of the family that takes place every three years in a different city.