Pope Francis, Wednesday (6/10), said he and the Roman Catholic Church are concerned and ashamed of the scale of child sexual abuse that is taking place in churches in France. He also acknowledged the failure of the Catholic Church’s authorities to prioritize the needs of the victims.
The pope spoke at his regular Vatican audience about a report released Tuesday, which estimates some 330,000 French children have been abused by priests and other church authorities since 1950.
“It is concerning that this is such a large number. I want to express to the victims my sadness and concern for the trauma they have suffered,” he said. “It is also my shame, our shame, for the church’s inability for too long to not highlight this issue.”
He called on all bishops and religious leaders to take all necessary action “so that similar events do not happen again” in the future.
The Pope also expressed his “closeness and support” for French church leaders in the face of this difficult test and called on French Catholics to ensure that the church remains a safe place for all.
The report said some 3,000 priests and others linked to the Catholic Church sexually abused children. About 80 percent of the victims were boys.
The head of the independent commission that issued the findings, Jean-Marc Sauve, on Tuesday (5/10) asserted that Catholic authorities had covered up 70 years of abuse “systematically”.
Victims welcomed the 2,500-page document as long overdue, and the president of the French Catholic Bishops’ Conference has officially apologized.
The report said the toll at 330,000 included some 216,000 people who were abused by priests and other church administrators, and the rest by church-related figures such as Scout leaders and camp counselors. The estimates are based on a broader study by France’s National Institute of Health and Medical Research into sexual abuse of children in the country. [ab/uh]