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AKIPRESS.COM - Pope Francis asked forgiveness for the child sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church on Friday, the first time he’s done so as pope, and also said the church must be “very strong” in responding to the ongoing legacy of that crisis, including imposing forceful sanctions, The Boston Globereports.
In remarks during an address to a French child protection group, Francis said he took personal responsibility for what he described as the “evil” of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
“I feel called to take upon myself all the evil that some priests — many, many in number, though not in proportion to the totality — to take it upon myself and to ask forgiveness for the harm they’ve done, for the sexual abuse of children,” the pope said.
“The church is aware of this harm,” he said. “It’s a personal and moral harm, but by men of the church. We do not want to take a step back in regard to treating this problem, and to the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, I believe we must be very strong.”
The pope’s comments come at a time when his overall approach to the child abuse crisis had been drawing mixed reviews.
Critics have charged he hasn’t engaged the abuse scandals with the same vigor he’s brought to other problems. The American watchdog group BishopAccountability.org, for instance, recently raised questions about his response to five abuse cases in Argentina, while his comments in a recent Italian interview claiming that the church has been unfairly singled out for its record on child abuse reminded some observers of the exculpatory rhetoric employed by church officials at the onset of the crisis.
On the other hand, Francis created a new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in December, signaling resolve in confronting the scandals, and he also won praise for his first round of appointments to that body in March.