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11 April 2014

Pope Francis asks forgiveness for child abuse by clergy

Pope Francis has asked for forgiveness for the “evil” damage to children caused by sexual abusers in the clergy.

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In quotes carried by Vatican Radio, he described the abuse as a “moral damage carried out by men of the Church”, and said “sanctions” would be imposed.

It is being described as his strongest statement on the issue so far.

Last month, Pope Francis strongly defended the Roman Catholic Church’s record on tackling sexual abuse by priests, following UN criticism.

The Pope set up a committee last year to organise help for victims of clerical sexual abuse but has been accused by some Catholics of dragging his feet in acknowledging the extent of the moral and mental damage caused by paedophile priests, the BBC’s David Willey reports from Rome.

‘Sanctions’
Pope Francis made the statement on Friday, during a meeting with a Catholic children’s non-governmental organisation, the Vatican Radio website reports.

He said he had felt compelled to “personally ask for forgiveness for the damage [some priests] have done for having sexually abused children”.

He said that the number of priests who had committed abuses were “quite a few in number”, although “obviously not compared to the number of all the priests”.

Catholic Church abuse scandals

  • Germany – A priest, named only as Andreas L, admitted in 2012 to 280 counts of sexual abuse involving three boys over a decade
  • United States – Revelations about abuses in the 1990s by two Boston priests, Paul Shanley and John Geoghan, caused public outrage
  • Belgium – The bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, resigned in April 2010 after admitting that he had sexually abused a boy for years
  • Italy – The Catholic Church in Italy admitted in 2010 that about 100 cases of paedophile priests had been reported over 10 years
  • Ireland – A report in 2009 found that sexual and psychological abuse was “endemic” in Catholic-run industrial schools and orphanages for most of the 20th century

The Catholic Church has faced numerous allegations of child sex abuse by priests around the world and criticism over inadequate responses by bishops.

Earlier this year Pope Francis strengthened Vatican laws on child abuse, broadening the definition of crimes against minors to include sexual abuse of children.

While in office, predecessor Pope Benedict XVI apologised to victims of child sex abuse, saying he was “truly sorry” for the “sinful and criminal actions” committed by priests.

BBC

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