Ahead of the historic Vatican summit that aims to resolve the growing number of sexual assault cases involving Catholic clergy, organizers of the said summit met with abuse survivors on Wednesday.
Organizers said that the meeting helped them “better understand the gravity and urgency of the difficulties” church leaders will face during the four-day summit.
According to a statement from the Vatican, the meeting that lasted for two hours included twelve clergy abuse survivors from around the world.
“The members of the committee are very grateful to the victims who participated for their sincerity, the depth and the strength of their testimonies, which will certainly help them always better to understand the gravity and urgency of the difficulties that they will confront during the course of the meeting,” the Vatican said in a statement.
The meeting was organized by both Vatican summit organizers and survivors network groups. According to Juan Carlos Cruz a Chilean survivor of clergy abuse, the meeting was attended by four members of the organizing committee for the Meeting of the Protection of Minors, including Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta and the Rev. Hans Zollner, a German Jesuit who is president of the Center for the Protection of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
“I felt that they had an open mind and that they sincerely want something to happen,” Cruz told CNN.
In the meeting, the 12 clergy abuse survivors, including representatives from the groups Ending Clergy Abuse, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and BishopAccountability.org, were able to share their stories and experiences of abuse, Cruz added.
“And then there was a dialogue. Sometimes it got a bit intense, but there was a climate of respect.”
Furthermore, Cruz noted that the atmosphere in the room at the Institute Maria Bambina in Vatican City, where the meeting was held, become intense as the survivors of clergy abuse pressed Vatican representatives on what actions will they take during the four-day summit that began last Thursday.
Pete Isely from the survivor group Ending Clergy Abuse said he demanded that church officials adopt a “zero tolerance” policy for clergy abusers and bishops who fail to protect children.
“We made our demands and we think that’s the demands of not just survivors but for people everywhere: zero tolerance,” Isely said. /apr