Vatican City, Feb 21 (IANS) Pope Francis said here on Thursday the world was waiting not only for the Catholic Church to condemn child sexual abuse by members of clergy but also for “concrete measures” to eradicate it.
The head of the Church said this in his speech at the start of a four-day summit, which is aimed at tackling the child sexual abuse within the institution.
The summit — “The Protection of Minors in the Church” — is being attended by the heads of all national bishops’ conferences from over 130 countries, the BBC reported.
Details of sexual abuse have emerged across the world and the Church has been accused of covering up crimes.
“The holy people of God are watching and waiting not for simple and obvious condemnations but concrete and efficient measures,” the Pontiff told 190 representatives of the ecclesiastical hierarchy which gathered at the Holy See for the meeting.
The Pope said he wanted to consult those gathered in the Vatican, which included patriarchs, cardinals, archbishops and bishops, “in the face of the plague of sexual abuse perpetrated by men of the Church against children”.
He hoped the gathering would allow them to “hear the cry of the little ones who ask for justice”, Efe news reported.
The Pope said those present at the summit bore a pastoral and ecclesial responsibility to discuss how to confront the “evil” of abuse at the hands of the clergy.
Participants would be given some guidelines to aid them in their reflections on the issue, which would act as a starting point, he added.
As part of his address, the Pontiff called on the Holy Spirit to help the Church over the coming days to transform the “evil” of abuse into an opportunity for its members to take stock of the situation.
The summit began with priest Hans Zollner, one of the members of the organising committee and an expert in the fight against abuse, reading the words of a victim of abuse: “Neither my parents nor the ecclesiastical authorities heard my cry. Did God not hear it either?”
Pope Francis called for “decisive action” on the issue when he was elected in 2013, but critics say he has not done enough to hold to account bishops who allegedly covered up abuse.
Some groups of survivors voiced scepticism that any concrete action will be taken during the event, calling it a “publicity stunt” to cleanse the image of the Church.