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Pope Francis meets with sex abuse victims for first time as pontiff


For the first time as leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis met Monday with victims of clerical sex abuse.

The meeting Monday took place at the Pope's private residence, a Vatican guesthouse called the Casa Santa Marta.

Six victims -- three men and three women from Britain, Ireland and Germany -- each met privately with Francis for about 30 minutes, Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told reporters.

Lombardi said they emerged moved by what he described as a "profound spiritual encounter and dialogue."

Despite complaints from groups critical of the church's handling of sex abuse scandals that the meeting was little more than a stunt, Lombardi said it was "absolutely clear it was not a public relations event."
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Francis became Pope in March 2013. While critics have said he should have met with victims earlier, Francis has said he believes the Church has been unfairly attacked.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, was asked by the Pope to help organize the meeting, the cardinal's spokesman said.

O'Malley is a member of a new commission spearheaded by Francis -- the Commission for the Protection of Minors -- to advise him on ways to help move forward after the Church's sex abuse crisis.

One member of the group is a woman who was a sex abuse victim.