Vatican representatives met Wednesday with victims of sex abuse by Catholic priests a day ahead of a landmark conference on the protection of minors, the Holy See said.
"The credibility of the Church, the Vatican and the pope are at an apocalyptic stage," Francois Devaux, co-founder of the victim's association "La parole liberee" (Freed speech), said afterwards.
The Vatican's organising committee met "12 people, men and women, from different parts of the world who belong to various organizations," a Vatican statement said.
"The members of the committee are very grateful to the victims who participated for their sincerity, the depth and the strength of their testimonies," it added.
It would help committee members grasp "the gravity and urgency of the difficulties that they will confront" during the meetings, the statement said.
Some victims nonetheless criticised the pope's absence on Wednesday, along with a lack of concrete measures to halt the abuse.
"Where is the pope" asked Peter Isely from the international survivors network Snap.
"What good will this meeting do," Devaux asked in turn.
He noted that more than 100 senior Vatican officials would search for a response to the crisis, and asked: "Don't we already know what to do?
"In Lyon the archbishop (Philippe) Barbarin acknowledged that he transferred a paedophile priest and today he is still archbishop," Devaux added by way of illustrating the Church's lack of response.
On Thursday, the pontiff is to launch four days of debate and prayer meant to "leave its mark" in the fight against the "scourge" of sexual abuse, Vatican spokesman Andrea Tornielli said in a statement.
The gathering of heads of around 100 bishops' conferences from every continent "offers new opportunities for awareness, listening to victims, responsibility, accountability, and transparency," he added.