Pope Francis, for the first time on Monday, publicly discussed the issue of clergy s3x abuse, telling Catholic bishops from the Netherlands he wished to express sympathy for victims in their country.
The pope mentioned the abuse scandal, which has continued to rock the Catholic church globally, towards the end of his remarks to the bishops. 13 Dutch prelates were part of the meeting which comes as they are making their ad limina visit to Rome.
“I promise compassion and prayer for every victim of s3xual abuse and their families,” speaking in French, the pope told the prelates.
“I ask you to continue supporting them on their painful path to healing, undertaken with courage,” he said, according to the Vatican’s text of his remarks.
The s3x abuse scandal has particularly impacted the Dutch Catholic church.
A 2011 report by a inquiry commission created by the Dutch government said church officials had “failed to adequately deal with” abuse affecting as many as 20,000 of the country’s children in Catholic institutions between 1945 and 1981.
While the issue of clergy s3x abuse has been mentioned tangentially since Francis’ election as pope in March, this is the first time the pontiff addressed the issue directly and in a public statement to bishops.
A statement in April from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office responsible for prosecuting clerics suspected or found guilty of abuse, said the pope had said then to “act decisively as far as cases of s3xual abuse are concerned”.
The pope also told the Dutch bishops Monday to seek to be close to people who are suffering from “spiritual emptiness” and are looking for meaning in their lives.
He also encouraged the prelates to confront continuing secularization in Europe not only through proselytizing but also by attracting people to the Christian Life.