Pope Francis compares abuse of children to human sacrifice -The Guardian. UK

Pontiff tells Vatican conference no effort will be spared to bring abusers within clergy to justice

Pope Francis celebrates mass at the Vatican on Sunday to conclude his extraordinary summit of Catholic leaders summoned to Rome.
 Pope Francis celebrates mass at the Vatican on Sunday to conclude his extraordinary summit of Catholic leaders summoned to Rome. Photograph: Giuseppe Lami/AP

Pope Francis, ending a landmark Vatican conference on sexual abuse by the clergy, called on Sunday for an “all-out battle” against a crime he called abominable and compared to human sacrifice.

Francis vowed that the Roman Catholic church would “spare no effort” to bring abusers to justice and would not cover up or underestimate abuse.         

He promised that guidelines used by national bishops’ conferences to prevent abuse and punish perpetrators would be reviewed and strengthened.

Francis delivered his remarks at the end of mass before 190 Catholic bishops and religious superiors who had been summoned to Rome after more abuse scandals sparked a credibility crisis in the Catholic hierarchy and in Francis’s own leadership.

“I am reminded of the cruel religious practice, once widespread in certain cultures, of sacrificing human beings – frequently children – in pagan rites,” he added.

The pope noted that the vast majority of sexual abuse happened in the family. And he offered a global review of the broader societal problems of sexual tourism and online pornography, in a bid to contextualise what he said was once a taboo subject.

But he said the sexual abuse of children became even more scandalous when it occured in the Catholic church, “for it is utterly incompatible with her moral authority and ethical credibility”.

“We need to recognise with humility and courage that we stand face-to-face with the mystery of evil, which strikes most violently against the most vulnerable, for they are an image of Jesus,” he said.

Francis summoned the bishops from around the world to the four-day meeting to impress upon them that clergy sex abuse and cover-ups were not just a problem in some countries but a global problem that threatened the very mission of the Catholic church.

He offered an eight-point pledge of priorities for the future, calling for a change in the church’s defensive mentality and a vow to never again cover up cases. Victims, he said, must take centre-stage while priests must undergo a continuing path of purity with the “holy fear of God” guiding the examination of their own failures.

“In people’s justified anger, the church sees the reflection of the wrath of God, betrayed and insulted by these deceitful consecrated persons,” he said.

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