Germany's top cardinal, Reinhard Marx, slammed the Catholic Church officials for their response to the decadeslong pedophilia scandal at a conference called by Pope Francis in the Vatican on Saturday.
"Sexual abuse of children and young people can be traced back, in no small part, to the abuse of power in the area of administration," Marx said in his address with the pope in attendance.
Vatican officials were "trampling on the rights of victims" by deliberately canceling or overriding procedures for investigating child abuse, according to Marx.
"It was not the perpetrators, but the victims who were regulated and pushed into silence," said Marx, who also serves as the head of the German Bishops' Conference.
"The files that documented these horrible acts and could name those responsible were destroyed or not created at all."
Working to regain trust
In recent months, leading Catholic officials in Australia, Chile, the US and other countries across the world were removed from office on accusations of covering up child abuse. At the same time, a group of Catholic nuns protested against an influential bishop who they claim committed multiple rapes.
On Saturday, Cardinal Marx called for transparency in order for the church to win back "trust," saying that secrecy provoked "conspiracy theories."
He urged the church to redefine its standards of confidentiality and make its judiciary more open, as well as report numbers and details linked with abuse cases.
'This storm will not pass'
Following Marx's remarks, a prominent Nigerian nun berated the church leadership for keeping silent and covering child abuse "atrocities."
"This storm will not pass," Sister Veronica Openibo told the prelates. "We proclaim the Ten Commandments and parade ourselves as being the custodians of moral standards and values and good behavior in society. Hypocrites at times? Yes!"
"At the present time, we are in a state of crisis and shame," she added. "We must acknowledge that our mediocrity, hypocrisy and complacency have brought us to this disgraceful and scandalous place where we find ourselves as a church. We pause to pray, Lord have mercy on us!"
The nun, who had worked in Africa, Europe and North America, said church leaders should discuss the reasons for keeping abusers among the clergy and whether seminaries are healthy for young boys.
She also called for more women to be involved in the fight against abuse.
Survivors have demands, not pleas
Outside the Vatican walls, dozens of abuse survivors and their supporters from various parts of the globe marched to call for abusers among the Catholic clergy to be prosecuted.
"The Catholic Church is running out of time" to act against child abuse, said Matthias Katsch from the German victims' association Eckiger Tisch from central Rome.
The survivors should not be "asking [the church] for anything" and instead demand "decisive measures for protecting children and youths across the world," Katsch added.
"This is a global crisis of the Catholic Church," he added
"We have also offered to present our concerns directly to the pope and ask him what is so difficult about anchoring a 'zero tolerance' policy in the church law."
On Friday, two US cardinals confirmed that the Vatican was working on the "clarification" of a 2016 law that reportedly left a loophole for bishops who cover up sexual abuse.
The three-day Vatican conference attended by 190 delegates from around the globe is set to close on Sunday, with Pope Francis due to give a speech.
dj/aw (AFP, epd, dpa, KNA)