Francis was speaking a day after a historic report that members of the Catholic clergy in France sexually abused an estimated 216,000 minors over the past seven decades and that the Church prioritized the institution’s safety over survivors, who were urged to remain silent. had gone.
The number of abused minors rises to an estimated 330,000 when victims are included who were not clergy but had other links to the church, such as Catholic schools and youth programs.
The damaging French report follows similar investigations in other countries that have dealt a blow to the Catholic Church’s reputation in recent years.
In his weekly remarks at the Vatican on Wednesday morning, the pope expressed his shame that the church has ignored sexual abuse victims for too long, saying he wants the church to be a “safe home for all”.
The pope did not directly address the allegations of abuse going on in his Wednesday remarks. However, he encouraged bishops and church leaders to “continue to do everything possible to ensure that such a tragedy does not recur.”
“I express my closeness and paternal support to the priests of France in the face of this evidence,” he said, “it is hard. But is it healthy.”
Francis also reassured survivors of sexual abuse for his prayers, saying: “I want to express my sorrow and my pain to the victims that they have suffered as well as my shame for the very long incompetence of the Church, our Shame, my shame. For having them at the center of your attention.”
The report states that “the Catholic Church is the place where the prevalence of sexual violence is highest, apart from family and friend circles.” It found that children were more likely to be abused in church settings than in government schools or summer camps.
Jean-Marc Sauve, chairman of the Independent Commission on Sexual Exploitation in the Church (CIASE), said Tuesday that most of the violence took place between 1950 and 1968, but continues to this day.
According to Sauvé, abuse of minors within the church accounts for 4% of all sexual violence in France.
“The problem is not behind us, it is still here,” he said.
More than half of the abuses described in the report occurred before 1969, when the Church in France ignored abuses by those in power, according to Sauvé.
“This first period … is marked by the utter indifference of the Church towards the victims. The suffering of the victims, the harm (suffering) of the victims, the trauma of the victims, doesn’t really exist,” Sauve told Granthshala.
The report states that over 70 years, “the attitude of the Church can be summarized as concealment, relativism or even denial, recognized only as recently as 2015, and then also, has been unequivocally accepted by the diocese and religious institutions.”
Granthshala’s Simon Bouvier and Sam Bradpeace contributed reporting.
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