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The Pope condemns years of abuse in open letter

Pope Francis. REUTERS/Max Rossi

The Pope condemns years of abuse in open letter

The Pope condemns years of abuse in open letter

Pope Francis has condemned the decades of abuse and clerical cover-ups in an open letter to the world’s 1.2bn Roman Catholics.

The letter to “the People of God” calls for an end to the “culture of death” in the Church, addresses failures to deal with abuse and asks for forgiveness.

The BBC reports that last week a grand jury report detailed seven decades of abuse in Pennsylvania. The landmark investigation found more than 1,000 identifiable minors had been abused by 300 priests in the US state. Thousands more are thought to have fallen victim. The inquiry found evidence of systematic cover-ups by the Church, with many cases now too old for prosecution.

After the report was made public, the Vatican said the Pope was on the side of victims against “predator” priests. The Vatican says it is the first time a Pope has addressed a letter to the entire Catholic population on the topic of sex abuse.

In Monday’s 2,000-word letter he addresses the US scandal directly and acknowledges the Church’s role in failing to act sooner. He describes the “heart-wrenching pain of these victims” that were “long ignored, kept quiet or silenced”.

The letter, published in seven languages, opens with an acknowledgement of suffering endured by children and abuse of power. Francis admits the church has failed to “act in a timely manner” and promises zero tolerance and sanctions. He went on to say in the letter, “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”

Margaret McGuckin from Survivors & Victims of Institutional Abuse, a historic abuse charity based in Northern Ireland, said the Pope’s response was “too little too late” and said “nothing will change” with the letter.

Irish campaigner Marie Collins, who was abused by a priest as a teenager, welcomed the condemnation of Church cover-ups, but said more concrete action on accountability was needed.

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