Pope Francis today expressed his “shame” for the “long inability of the Church” in handling cases of pedophile priests, after the publication of the report on the 330,000 cases of abuse or sexual violence on minors or vulnerable people occurred since 1950 by the French clergy.
“This is the moment of shame,” Francis said during the general audience in greeting the French faithful, when he expressed to the victims his “sadness and sorrow for the traumas they have suffered.”
According to the report published Tuesday by an independent commission and made public by the French bishops, in the last three years has investigated the phenomenon in the French church and has identified between 2,900 and 3,200 religious pedophiles, there were at least 330,000 cases of abuse or sexual violence on minors or vulnerable people since 1950.
“Unfortunately these are huge numbers,” the pope said in reference to the report in which a bleak picture emerged for the Catholic Church, “far higher than expected,” as acknowledged by the president of the French Bishops’ Conference, Éric de Moulins-Beaufort.
“I would like to express to the victims my sadness, sorrow for the trauma they have suffered and also my shame, our shame, for the church’s inability, for too long, to put them at the centre of its concerns,” the pope stressed.
And he added: “I pray and we all pray together — to you Lord the glory, to us the shame.”
Francis also encouraged “the bishops, the faithful, superiors and religious to continue all efforts so that similar dramas are not repeated” and expressed support to the French religious to overcome “tthis ordeal, but what will they do? well.”
He also invited French Catholics to assume “their responsibilities to ensure that the Church is a safe home for all.”
Following the publication of the report, the Vatican press office issued a note in which the pope expressed his “sorrow” and in which it was said that his thoughts went “first of all to the victims, with great pain, for their wounds, and thanks, for their courage in the complaint.”
Francis was informed of the publication of the report by the French bishops, whom he received in recent days during the ad limina visits (those made every five years).
During the presentation of the report, the president of the French bishops expressed his “shame” for facts that “because of their character is shocking and because of their number overwhelms,” but tiptoed around the question of compensation, which is the main claim of the victims’ associations, which accuse the church of looking the other way on this issue after years of having done so with the cases denounced.