Argentine child abuse victims urge Pope Francis to hear their grievances
By Alvise Armellini
ROME (Reuters) - A group representing victims of child abuse in Argentina is calling on Pope Francis, a fellow Argentine, to invite it to the Vatican to hear their grievances.
Clerical sex abuse and cover-up scandals have for decades rocked the nearly 1.38-billion-member Roman Catholic Church, undercutting its moral authority and taking a toll on membership and coffers.
"We sent him a letter, we declared ourselves open to dialogue and meetings, but in 10 years of papacy ... he has not made the public gesture of summoning us," Sebastian Cuattromo told Reuters in Rome on Thursday.
The Vatican press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pope Francis marks the 10th anniversary of his election on March 13. As pope, he has pledged "irreversible" action against clerical abuse. He has also acknowledged mistakes on the issue, most notably after a 2018 trip to Chile in which he initially stood by a bishop accused of sex crimes against minors.
Cuattromo, who was abused by a priest while attending a Catholic school in Buenos Aires, travelled to Rome with the other co-founder of his group, called Adults for the rights of children, in hopes of meeting the pope.
He said he was disappointed by the general attitude of the Argentine Catholic Church.
Cuattromo reported his abuser to the school, along with another victim. According to Bishopaccountability.org, a website that tracks church sex abuse cases, they received $40,000 each in compensation, in return for their silence.
He changed his mind in 2002, denouncing the priest to civilian authorities, leading to a conviction and 12 years' imprisonment.
At that time he also flagged the case to the Archbishopric of Buenos Aires, then led by Francis under his previous title of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Cuattromo said he was referred to Bergoglio's secretary and then to a deputy bishop who he said told him that the Argentine Church leadership backed the school.
There was no immediate response to a request for comment from representatives of the Catholic Church in Argentina.
(Reporting by Alvise Armellini in Rome; Additional reporting by Lucila Sigal in Buenos Aires; Editing by Frances Kerry)