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Pope Francis expresses ‘shame’ after report of clerical sexual abuse in France

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(REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)Pope Francis blesses the faithful during his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican October 21, 2015.

Pope Francis has expressed “shame” for himself and the Roman Catholic Church at the scale of child sexual abuse within France involving hundreds of thousands of victims.

The Pope spoke at a regular audience at the Vatican on Oct. 6, acknowledging failures in putting the needs of victims first after the release of a shocking report.

“I wish to express to the victims my sadness and grief at the trauma they have suffered,” Francis said in remarks to French-speaking pilgrims and visitors, Vatican News reported.

And he expressed his own shame, “at the church’s too long failure” to place victims at the center of its concerns. Pope Francis assured them of his prayers.

A report released this week estimated that 216,000 French children were victims of clerical and religious abuse since 1950.

The study also found that 330,000 children were victims of sex abuse when non-religious people involved in the church were considered.

“I wish to express to the victims my sadness and grief at the trauma they have suffered,” Francis said in remarks to French-speaking pilgrims and visitors.

And he expressed his own shame, “at the church’s too long failure” to place victims at the center of its concerns. Pope Francis assured them of his prayers.

NO REPITITION

He encouraged the French Bishops and religious superiors “to continue to make every effort so that similar tragedies will not be repeated.”

Between 2,900 and 3,200 priests and religious have been implicated in those crimes, although those figures are low-end estimates.

More than 200,000 children sexually abused by French Catholic clergy, the damning report found.

Jean-Marc Sauvé, head of the independent commission behind the report, delivered its findings on Oct. 5 in Paris.

“The Catholic Church is the place where the prevalence of sexual violence is at its highest, other than in family and friend circles,” said the report, which found that children were also more likely to abused within Church settings than in state-run schools or summer camps,” CNN reported.

More than half the abuses detailed in the report occurred before 1969, Sauvé told CNN, when he said the church in France ignored abuse by people it put in power.

“Faced with this scourge, for a very long time the Catholic Church’s immediate reaction was to protect itself as an institution and it has shown complete, even cruel, indifference to those having suffered abuse.”

The report recommends that the church puts in place a mechanism to compensate the victims of sexual abuses committed by its clergy and to put in place an “independent process to officially recognize” survivors if the statute of limitations has expired, or if the offender has died.

The investigation was commissioned in 2018 by French Catholic clergy groups and financed by the French Catholic Bishops conference, but members are not paid and acted independently of the church.

The commission was permitted to access the archives of dioceses and religious institutions.

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