Pope Francis made his first public plea for forgiveness on Friday for the “evil” committed by priests who molested children, using some of his strongest words yet on the Roman Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis.
Yet the Argentine-born pontiff said the Church had to take an even stronger stand against the scandal that has haunted it for over two decades.
“I feel compelled... to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage that they have done by having sexually abused children,” he told members of members of the International Catholic Child Bureau, an NGO committed to protecting the rights of the child.
Francis said the number of guilty priests was "quite a few in number" but "obviously not compared to the number of all the priests".
"Personal, moral damage"
“The Church is aware of this ... personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and to the sanctions that must be imposed,” he continued.
“On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children,” Francis said.
Victims’ groups have criticised Francis in recent months for not taking a bold enough stand on the issue. He was also criticized for failing to meet with victims of sexual abuse in Italy and in a July trip to Brazil.
The Vatican announced in December the creation of a new dedicated group to help the Church fight the abuse crisis but only named its members in late March.
The group of clerics and lay people includes Marie Collins, a survivor of abuse in Ireland in the 1960s, who has campaigned for the protection of children and for justice for children who were molested.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)
Date created : 2014-04-11