Pope apologises for ‘sacrilegious cult’ of Church sexual abuse

2014-07-07 17:59

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Vatican City – Pope Francis told victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clerics that the Church should “weep and make reparation” for crimes he said had taken on the dimensions of a sacrilegious cult.

“For some time now I have felt in my heart deep pain and suffering,” he said in his strongest comments yet on the crimes, delivered at a Mass with adult victims today. “So much time hidden, camouflaged, with a complicity that cannot be explained until someone realised Jesus was looking.”

He said he would not tolerate abusers and bishops would be held accountable if they shielded them.

One prominent critic of the church’s long failure to act on the cases, and of the pope’s failure to meet victims earlier in his pontificate, said the pope should quickly follow up on the meeting with clear action to prove it wasn’t just a ceremonial statement.

Francis delivered his homily to six victims of abuse – two each from Ireland, Britain and Germany – before meeting all of them individually at a gathering that lasted nearly four hours. He spent about 30 minutes with each one.

“I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons.

“Before God and his people, I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness,” the pope said.

Sexual abuse scandals have haunted the Catholic Church for more than two decades. But they became a major issue in the United States about 10 years ago. Since then they have cast a shadow over local churches in Ireland, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and other countries and have badly tarnished the Church’s image.

The meeting was closed to media but the Vatican spokesman, who participated, said it was “very intense and moving”.

“It was clearly not a public relations event. It was a very profound, spiritual encounter with a pastor, a father, who is trying to understand deeply what happened,” said Father Federico Lombardi.

The names and ages of the victims were not released but they were believed to be in their 30s and 40s.

Francis came under fire from victims groups for saying in an interview this year that the Roman Catholic Church had done more than any other organisation to root out paedophiles in its ranks.

Victims groups have said the pope had a spotty record of dealing with abuse cases in Argentina when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. Argentinian victims sent him a letter expressing “pain” that they were not invited to Monday’s meeting.

The Vatican says 3 420 credible accusations of sexual abuse by priests had been referred to the Vatican in the past 10 years and 824 clerics have been defrocked.

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