The pope, the ex officio leader of the worldwide Catholic Church has finally broken his silence on sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. Pope Francis has condemned the "atrocities" of child sex abuse and clerical cover-ups in a letter to his followers across the world. In a letter addressed to “People of God” in his words to the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, he condemned the “atrocities.”
"With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives… We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them," he writes.
His letter at 2,000-word, directly addressed the child sex abuse scandal revealed in the U.S., which has led to this vocal denunciation – the first of its kind.
A sweeping grand jury report in Pennsylvania, U.S. found that the Church had covered up the abuse of more than 1,000 minors by some 300 priests over the last 70 years.
The Pope describes the "heart-wrenching pain of these victims" that were "long ignored, kept quiet or silenced". He also acknowledged the Church's role in failing to act sooner.
"If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history.
"It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others."
The Pennsylvania revelations are one in a long line of sexual abuse transgressions committed by priests in different parts of the world.
In May this year, Archbishop Philip Wilson became the most senior Catholic in the world to be charged with concealing child sexual abuse in Australia in the 1970s. In July, the former archbishop of Washington DC, Theodore McCarrick, stepped down over abuse accusations against him.
The Hollywood film – Spotlight which won the Oscar in 2015, was made on the Boston Globe’s reportage uncovering cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests.