Pope Francis on Wednesday morning expressed his “shame” at the extent of clerical sexual abuse in France, which was revealed in a report on Tuesday.
“I would like to express my sadness, my pain for the trauma that they have endured; and also, my shame for that for so long the Church has been incapable to put this at the center of its concerns,” he said during one of his General Audiences.
An independent investigation initiated by French Catholic bishops found that more than 200 000 children, mostly boys aged between 10 and 13, had been abused by French clergy. The cases date back to 1950, with more than half occurring between 1950 and 1970. About 2,900 to 3,200 priests and other clergy were involved, the 2,500-page report stated.
“The church should be a safe home for everyone,” the pontiff stressed. He said he he prays for the “considerable number” of victims and encourages “the bishops and religious superiors to continue taking every means that similar tragedies are not repeated.”
The Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) was established in 2018. Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has been increasingly challenged to react to decades-long sexual abuse scandals involving Catholic priests.
In June 2021, he updated the canon law addressing pedophilia in the Catholic Church. It was the most extensive revision of the Code of Canon Law in four decades, raising sanctions for sexual abuse of minors by priests. Still, activists urge that much more needs to be done.
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