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Pope to meet abuse victims

May 27, 2014

Pope Francis says he plans to meet with sex abuse victims at the Vatican next month, and vowed zero tolerance for perpetrators within the Catholic Church. The pontiff has wrapped up his three-day tour of the Middle East.

Israel Vatikan Papst Franz in Jerusalem Abschied
Image: Getty Images

Pope Francis told reporters on his return flight to the Vatican from the Middle East that he would hold a special mass for sex abuse victims next month.

He labeled abuse of children by priests a crime comparable to "satanic Mass," in what is some of the toughest language he has used on the ongoing scandal. The Catholic Church has been rocked for over a decade by revelations of thousands of children worldwide being abused by clergy.

The Pontiff said three bishops were currently under investigation.

"One of them has already been convicted. There are no privileges. Priests who do this are betraying the Lord," Francis said. It was not clear if the Pope's comments also applied to bishops who are not accused of abuse but instead of turning a blind eye or covering up what they knew.

The Pope will meet around eight victims. It will the first time he has done so since his election in March 2013. The mass will be attended by Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley of Boston, who heads a commission investigating the crisis.

The announcement comes days after the UN's anti-torture watchdog criticized the Catholic Church over its handling of the sex abuse allegations.

It said the Church knowingly avoided its full responsibilities and has called on officials to make sure suspect priests face justice.

The body also found the Vatican does exercise direct global control over its clergy - the Church has denied this to distance itself from the conduct of pedophile priests.

The Vatican rejected the UN's report but said it would take the overall findings seriously.

jr/lw (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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