Pope Francis promised to hold bishops accountable for the protection of minors and begged forgiveness Monday from the victims of clergy sex abuse as he held his first meeting with several abuse survivors.
The pope celebrated a Mass with six survivors at his Vatican hotel Monday, but in his homily he didn't spell out whether that accountability would include firing bishops and other prelates who systematically shuffled pedophile priests from parish to parish to avoid bringing shame upon the Catholic Church.
Victims' advocacy groups around the world have pressed the Vatican for decades to severely discipline any complicit church hierarchy.
One of the six, Irishwoman Marie Kane, 43, said she asked Francis to remove an Irish cardinal, Sean Brady, from his post because of how he handled abuse allegations.
Kane told The Irish Times that she told Francis a "coverup is still happening and you have the power to make these changes." She said that he replied "'it was difficult to make these changes.'"
Francis himself has been criticized by survivor advocates for how he handled abuse cases when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, specifically for not meeting with victims and denying that he had handled the case of an abusive priest, said Anne Barrett Doyle, a director of the advocacy group BishopAccountability.org.
Even while the pope spent his morning with the three men and three women, listening to their stories one by one, several victims' groups blasted the meetings as being "a PR event."
The Vatican quoted Francis as expressing personal "sorrow" in his homily at the private Mass with the victims for the "sins and grave crimes" of clerical sex abuse against them.
Francis pledged "not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not."
"All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable," Francis said, according to the English translation of his homily, which was delivered in Spanish.