"Many of those who have suffered in this way have also sought relief in the path of addiction," he said. "Others have experienced difficulties in significant relationships, with parents, spouses and children. Suffering in families has been especially grave, since the damage provoked by abuse affects these vital family relationships."

"Some have even had to deal with the terrible tragedy of the death of a loved one by suicide," Francis told the victims. "The deaths of these so beloved children of God weigh upon the heart and my conscience and that of the whole Church."

Francis became Pope in March 2013. While critics have said he should have met with victims earlier, Francis has said he believes the Church has been unfairly attacked.

The Pope asked Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, to help organize the meeting.

O'Malley is a member of a new commission spearheaded by Francis -- the Commission for the Protection of Minors -- to advise him on ways to help move forward after the Church's sex abuse crisis.

One member of the group is a woman who was a sex abuse victim.