Erie Catholic Bishop Lawrence Persico is back in Erie, after meeting Pope Francis in Rome last week.

The bishop joined all other bishops from Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the required visit to the Vatican.

He said he was impressed with his two-and-a-half hour meeting with Pope Francis, Vatican leaders and the other American bishops.

He said the Pope urged the bishops to have a close relationship with the congregations and victims of clergy sexual abuse.

He said, "The idea is that we cannot ignore them or push them aside. They are people who are hurting. And in our position as pastors of the diocese we have to have a pastoral solicitude for them."

Persico said it was clear that Pope Francis was well aware of that devastating Pennsylvania Grand Jury report into the clergy sex abuse scandal.

He said, "So he knew what was in it. And you could tell in the conversation that it was upsetting to him."

Persico said the meetings in Rome also focused on other key challenges facing the American Catholic church including Catholic education and the declining number of priests.