Light Wave


Pope Condemns Clerical Child Abuse in Portugal

By Jake Beardslee · August 5, 2023

In brief…

  • Pope Francis skipped reading a prepared speech during a visit to the Fatima shrine in Portugal, opting instead to speak off-the-cuff to the crowd.
  • Earlier during his trip to Portugal the Pope met privately with victims of clerical sexual abuse.
  • He criticized bishops over the abuse scandals.
  • The Vatican said the Pope's decision not to give his wrtten speech yesterday had nothing to do with health issues.
During his Portugal trip Pope Francis met with clergy abuse victims while criticizing bishops over the scandals.  Alfredo Borba/Wikimedia

During a visit at the famed Fatima shrine in Portugal yesterday, 86-year-old Pope Francis raised health concerns when he made a last-minute decision to skip reading a prepared speech, which had been promoted as the day’s main event.

Two days earlier, Pope Francis met privately with victims of sexual abuse committed by clergy members. The Vatican described the Pope’s meeting with abuse victim as being held in “an atmosphere of intense listening.”

Earlier this year, an independent commission issued a report that found at least 4,815 children had been sexually abused by clergy in Portugal since the 1950s, and that the Church had systematically tried to conceal the scandal.

At an evening service in Lisbon during his five-day Portugal trip, Pope Francis said the Church must pay attention to the words of abuse victims. He added that the scandal “calls us to a humble and ongoing purification,” and that the widespread outrage over it has led many people to develop “growing detachment from the practice of the faith.”

The meeting at the Holy See’s embassy in Portugal included 13 victims of abuse and lasted over an hour, according to the Vatican.

As for the Pope’s decision to not give his prepared speech yesterday, the Vatican insisted it was not related to health issues. Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni said the pope’s decision not to deliver the prepared speech had nothing to do with his eyesight. “The Pope always addresses firstly the people he meets, as a shepherd, and speaks accordingly,” Bruni told reporters.

Later the same day, as an aide slowly wheeled the pontiff through the crowd in his wheelchair, Pope Francis took time to individually greet dozens of people, stopping to kiss babies and comfort the ill.