Pope Francis sheds tears during meeting with child sex abuse victims in Chile

Pope Francis prayed and cried during a private meeting with victims of clergy rape and molestation in Chile on Jan. 16, according to Vatican spokesman Greg Burke.

(REUTERS / Alessandro Bianchi)Pope Francis arrives to lead a mass at the Maquehue Temuco Air Force base, Chile. January 17, 2017.

The pontiff took time recently to speak in private with the victims of clergy sexual abuse at the Vatican embassy in Santiago to give them a chance to relay their suffering. Pope Francis expressed "pain and shame" over the ordeal they endured at the hands of the abusive priests, Reuters relayed.

"No one else was present. Only the pope and the victims," said Burke. "This was so they could speak of their suffering to Pope Francis, who listened to them and prayed and cried with them."

Burke did not give additional details on Pope Francis' meeting with the victims. However, the publication noted that the pontiff had asked for forgiveness for the abuses when he spoke at the La Moneda presidential palace.

The apology drew applause from the politicians at the palace including Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. The statement came at a time when the image of the Catholic Church in the country had been marred by distrust over the abuse scandal.

Pope Francis had attracted criticism after he appointed Bishop Juan Barros as the head of the diocese of Osorno in 2015. The latter had been accused of covering up for his former mentor, Fr. Fernando Karadima, who the Vatican said was guilty of abusing teenage boys. He, however, denied the allegations.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis has gone on to the next stop in his itinerary - Peru. The national police in that country is said to have at least 40 snipers guarding  the pontiff amidst warnings of a possible terror attack, Telesurv TV reported.

According to local paper Ojo Peru, Sr. Kathy Wenstuisen of the Apostolic Nunciature Church received a phone call from a woman named Amparo who told her about a possible attack on Pope Francis. In light of that threat, the Interior Ministry has assured the pontiff's safety during his papal visit from Jan. 18 to 21.