Deaf children who were raped in Catholic institutions in Argentina and Italy called on Thursday for a meeting with Pope Francis whom they accuse of failing to take action after the abuse came to light.
The victims, represented by the global Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) organisation, will be in Rome from February 20-22 and have requested a public audience with the Argentine pontiff, a statement said.
"We were raped, sexually assaulted and physically tortured by Catholic priests, nuns and lay people," the victims wrote to the pope last week, requesting a meeting along with their lawyers. "Our story goes to the very heart of the cover-up of these crimes within our country. The crimes were secret neither to Church officials in Argentina nor to Vatican officials."
The victims say the Vatican and Francis knew about abuse allegations against Italian priest Nicola Corradi at a Catholic school for the deaf in northern city Verona in 2009, decades after he had been transferred to a similar institution in Mendoza, Argentina.
A court in the western Argentine city in November sentenced Corradi and Argentine priest Horacio Corbacho each to more than 40 years in prison for the sexual abuse and rape of around 20 deaf children at the Próvolo Institute between 2004 and 2016.
Several other trials involving the school have yet to begin.
The victims were children and adolescents aged between four and 17.
Several other staff at the Argentine school have been arrested after the allegations of abuse first came to light in 2016, and the institute, located 1,000 kilometres west of Buenos Aires, was shut down.
Corradi arrived in Argentina in 1970 from the Próvolo Institute in Verona and took over the institution in the South American country, initially in La Plata near Buenos Aires, and then from 1998 in Mendoza.
The abuse victims will be in Geneva on Monday to present their evidence of alleged Church inaction to the UN Committee Against Torture and the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
"After Vatican officials and Pope Francis knew of the abuse and failed to act, other deaf and disabled persons were abused," the victims said.
Their arrival in Rome will coincide with the first anniversary of an historic papal abuse summit and will mark the first time the Argentine and Italian victims have met.