Pope Francis expressed his “shame” on Wednesday morning at the extent of clerical sexual abuse in France, revealed in a Tuesday report.
“I want to express my sadness, my pain, about the trauma they have suffered; and also my shame that the church has not been able to put this at the center of their concern for so long, ”he said during one of its general audiences.
An independent investigation launched by French Catholic bishops found that more than 200,000 children, mostly boys between the ages of 10 and 13, were molested by French clergymen. The cases date back to 1950, with more than half occurring between 1950 and 1970. About 2,900 to 3,200 priests and other clergy were involved, according to the 2,500-page report.
“The church should be a safe home for everyone,” stressed the Pope. He said he prayed for the “significant number” of victims and encouraged “the bishops and religious superiors to continue to do everything to prevent similar tragedies from happening again.”
The Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) was founded in 2018. Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has faced increasing challenges to respond to decades of sexual abuse scandals involving Catholic priests.
In June 2021, he updated Canon Law to Combat Pedophilia in the Catholic Church. It was the largest revision of the Code of Canon Law in four decades, imposing sanctions for the sexual abuse of minors by priests. Still, activists are calling for much more to be done.