Pope Francis told ecclesiastical leaders gathered for a major summit on combating sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church that they must find “concrete” solutions to end the crisis.
The Vatican began a summit on Thursday titled “The Protection of Minors in the Church,” featuring approximately 200 church leaders from across the world and scheduled to conclude on Sunday.
During his introductory remarks, Francis implored the leaders to find ways to fight what he called “this evil afflicting the Church and humanity.”
“I wanted to consult you, Patriarchs, Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, and Religious Superiors and Leaders, so that together we might listen to the Holy Spirit and, in docility to his guidance, hear the cry of the little ones who plead for justice,” stated the pontiff, according to an English translation transcript provided by the Vatican.
“The holy People of God looks to us, and expects from us not simple and predictable condemnations, but concrete and effective measures to be undertaken. We need to be concrete.”
Francis also asked for “the Holy Spirit to sustain us throughout these days, and to help us to turn this evil into an opportunity for awareness and purification.”
“May the Virgin Mary enlighten us as we seek to heal the grave wounds that the scandal of pedophilia has caused, both in the little ones and in believers,” he concluded.
Part of the agenda for the meeting included having the church leaders watch prerecorded testimonies from abuse victims, including an unnamed person from Chile.
“The first thing they did was to treat me as a liar, turn their backs and tell me that I, and others, were enemies of the Church,” stated the person, as reported by The New York Times. “This pattern exists not only in Chile … It exists all over the world, and this must end.”
Over the past several years, the Catholic Church has struggled with handling a sex abuse scandal in which many priests were found to have abused children while their superiors sought to cover-up their actions.
Last August, a Pennsylvania grand jury reignited outrage over the scandal when they released a 1,300-page report documenting how 301 priests abused more than 1,000 children, with the church hierarchy covering up their crimes.
In response to these and other revelations of abuse across the world, Francis announced last September that there would be a meeting at the Vatican to deal with the sex abuse problem.
“This is a new day in terms of transparency,” said Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, one of the meeting organizers, as reported by The Telegraph. “Bishops are going to be held accountable. My hope is that people see this as a turning point."