Pope says concrete measures needed to rid Church of child sexual abuse

Pope Francis prays during the opening of a global child protection summit for reflections on the sex abuse crisis within the Catholic Church, at the Vatican, 21 February 2019. EPA/VINCENZO PINTO

VATICAN CITY.- Pope Francis said Thursday that the world was waiting not only for the Catholic Church to condemn child sexual abuse by members of its clergy but also for concrete measures in order to eradicate it.

The head of the Church made his comments during a speech at the start of a summit in the Vatican aimed at tackling the issue of child sexual abuse within the institution.

«The holy people of God are watching and waiting not for simple and obvious condemnations but concrete and efficient measures,» the pontiff told 190 representatives of the ecclesiastical hierarchy who were gathered in the Holy See for the unprecedented meeting on the issue.

Francis said he wanted to consult those gathered in the Vatican, which included patriarchs, cardinals, archbishops and bishops, «in the face of the plague of sexual abuse perpetrated by men of the Church against children.»

He hoped the gathering would allow them to «hear the cry of the little ones who ask for justice.»

He said those present at the summit bore a pastoral and ecclesial responsibility to discuss how to confront the «evil» of abuse at the hands of the clergy.

Those attending the meeting would be given some guidelines to aid them in their reflections on the issue, which would act as a starting point, according to the pope.

As part of his address, Francis called on the Holy Spirit to help the Church over the coming days to transform the «evil» of abuse into an opportunity for its members to take stock of the situation.

The pontiff also called on the Virgin Mary to enlighten the Church in its quest to cure the wounds inflicted on children and its followers by pedophilia.

The summit began with priest Hans Zollner, one of the members of the organizing committee and an expert in the fight against abuse, reading the words of a victim of abuse: «Neither my parents nor the ecclesiastical authorities heard my cry. Did God not hear it either?»

The four-day «The Protection of Minors in the Church» summit will continue until Sunday.

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