The three Chilean victims of abuse by a notorious priest have each commented positively on their individual, two-hour long personal encounters with Pope Francis over the weekend. They have not revealed the content of their discussions with the pope, nor has the Vatican. This afternoon, Pope Francis will meet all three of them together.
The three victims—Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Andrés Murillo—are staying in Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse where Francis lives.
Andrés Murillo, 43, a writer and philosopher, was the first to meet the pope. They met Friday afternoon, and after a two-hour long face-to face conversation, the Chilean sent two messages by Twitter, in Spanish, reporting on their encounter.
In the first he wrote, “I spoke with the Pope for two hours. In a very respectful and frank way I expressed the importance of understanding abuse as an abuse of power, the need to assume responsibility and care and not just pardon, and [I spoke] also of the postponed [or deferred, “postergado”] role of the woman and of the communities.”
Hoy conversé 2 horas con el Papa. De manera muy respetuosa y franca le expresé la importancia de entender el abuso como un abuso de poder. De la necesidad de asumir la responsabilidad, el cuidado y no solo el perdón. También del postergado rol de la mujer y las comunidades— José Andrés Murillo (@JosAndrsMurillo) April 27, 2018
In a second tweet, he said, “I only hope that this may be useful. That it may help to change all that is necessary so that the world may be a place that takes care of, accompanies in a healthy way, and does not that maltreat. And that the Catholic church may be an ally in this and no longer an abuser.”
Solo espero que sea útil. Que ayude a cambiar lo que sea necesario para que el mundo sea un lugar que cuide, sane acompañe y no que maltrate. Y que la iglesia católica en eso sea aliada y no más abusadora.— José Andrés Murillo (@JosAndrsMurillo) April 27, 2018
James Hamilton, 52, a well-known gastroenterologist in Chile, met with Pope Francis on Saturday afternoon. Afterwards, he sent two messages by Twitter, in Spanish.
He sent a first brief message immediately after meeting Francis in which he wrote, “Very happy and satisfied.” Some minutes later he sent a second in which he said, “The encounter with the pope has ended, more than two hours, sincere, welcoming and enormously constructive.”
Juan Carlos Cruz, 55, a communications executive who now works and lives in the United States, and is the best known of the victims, met the pope on Sunday afternoon. After their private encounter, he sent the following message by Twitter, first in Spanish and then in English:
I spoke for more than two and a half hours alone with Pope Francis. He listened to me with great respect, affection and closeness, like a father. We talked about many subjects. Today I have more hope in the future of our church... Even though the task is enormous.— Juan Carlos Cruz Ch. (@jccruzchellew) April 29, 2018
All three have fought for eight years in the public eye, and even longer in private, to have the truth of their accusations about their abuse and its cover by bishops recognized by the Catholic Church. They gained an important first recognition of the abuse in 2011 when the Vatican condemned their abuser, Father Fernando Karadima, 80, to a life of prayer and penance. But it is only now that they have finally gained full recognition of the justice of their cause, and it has come in the most dramatic way in personal encounters with the pope who had at first dismissed their allegations against Bishop Juan Barros and other bishops, as the Chilean hierarchy had done for many years.
On his return from Chile, however, Francis understood that the situation was not as he had long believed and so he sent the Maltese archbishop, Charles Scicluna, the Vatican’s top investigator of abuse by clergy to listen to the victims in New York and Chile, and report back to him. Archbishop Scicluna was accompanied by Fr. Jordi Bertomeu, a Spanish priest working in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which deals with abuse cases.
Having received Scicluna’s 2,300- page report, Francis set out to deal with this scandal in a decisive way. He summoned all the Chilean bishops to Rome, May 14-17, to discern together with him the measures that must be taken in the short, medium, and long terms to bring about justice and reconciliation in the church in Chile. But before meeting the bishops, Francis felt it essential to first meet the victims face-to-face, and so he invited them to come to the Vatican as his guests, with all expenses paid, to listen and talk with each of them individually, to ask their forgiveness for the wrong he had done them, and to hear their proposals to avoid this ever happening again.
During their stay in the Vatican they have been treated as the personal guests of the pope. Father Bertomeu is accompanying them throughout their stay in the Vatican. He took them to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and presented them to officials there, and he showed them other places in the Vatican. Yesterday he took them to a balcony of the Apostolic Palace from which, together with some family members, they watched Pope Francis recite the Angelus and speak to the 30,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.