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'Disappointed' abuse survivors demand to see Pope Francis at Vatican summit

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Twelve sexual abuse victims have met with Vatican officials ahead of an unprecedented conference that aims to guide bishops on how best to tackle the issue.

Victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy have demanded to meet Pope Francis to press their call for the church to apply a zero tolerance policy, including the dismissal of bishops who covered up such offences.

The 12 victims have met with five Vatican officials a day before the start of an unprecedented conference on clerical abuse that aims to guide senior bishops on how best to tackle a problem that has decimated the church's credibility.

All the survivors of abuse who took part in Wednesday's meeting, which lasted more than two hours, said they were disappointed the Pope did not attend, even though he was not scheduled to be there.

Sex abuse survivors Denise Buchanan and Peter Isely at the Vatican.
Sex abuse survivors Denise Buchanan and Peter Isely at the Vatican.
AP

"We need to have a discussion with the man who makes the rules and has the power in this institution, and that's Pope Francis," said American Peter Isely, who was abused by a priest when he was a boy.

Isely said the discussion had become "a little bit confrontational, a little heated at times, but polite".

The four-day conference is bringing together presidents of national Roman Catholic bishops conferences, Vatican officials, experts and heads of male and female religious orders.

Scandals over sexual abuse of minors have deeply damaged the church's credibility in the US, Chile, Australia, Ireland and elsewhere.

Billions of dollars have been paid in the US alone in settlements.

Pope Francis greets the faithful during his weekly general audience in the Paolo VI Hall at the Vatican.
Pope Francis greets the faithful during his weekly general audience in the Paolo VI Hall at the Vatican.
AP

"We made our demands for zero tolerance. We want the Pope to write into universal law: zero tolerance for the cover-up of sex crimes. They can do it right now," Isely told reporters after the meeting with the officials, all of them clerics.

He and other victims said bishops who had covered up abuse should be dismissed from the priesthood, known as laicisation, just like those who had committed the abuse itself.

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