Pope tells predator priests to turn themselves in | News | DW | 21.12.2018
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Pope tells predator priests to turn themselves in

The pope has made child sexual abuse in the church the center of his annual speech to the Vatican bureaucracy. It comes as he will convene bishops to address a slew of child abuse scandals that have damaged the church.

Pope Francis demanded on Friday that predator priests turn themselves in and vowed that the Catholic Church will never again cover up child abuse allegations.

Francis was giving his annual pre-Christmas address to Vatican bureaucrats at a time the church has been confronted with revelations of decades of child sexual abuse and cover-ups around the globe.

Read more: Pope adviser urges rethink on Catholic celibacy 

"Let it be clear that before these abominations the church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes," he said. "To those who abuse minors I would say this: convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice."

Pope urges victims to come forward

Francis also urged victims to come forward and thanked the media for bringing to light sexual abuse and cover-ups.

Read more: German Catholic Church reveals scale of sexual abuse

"The church asks that people not be silent, but bring it objectively to light, since the greater scandal in this matter is that of cloaking the truth," he said.

"I myself would like to give heartfelt thanks to those media professionals who were honest and objective and sought to unmask these predators and to make their victims' voices heard," he said.

Vicious wolves 

The pope lambasted consecrated men who abuse their power and position to take advantage of vulnerable people      

"They perform abominable acts yet continue to exercise their ministry as if nothing had happened. They have no fear of God or his judgement, but only of being found out and unmasked," he said. "Often behind their boundless amiability, impeccable activity and angelic faces, they shamelessly conceal a vicious wolf ready to devour innocent souls."

Read more: Illinois accuses 500 more Catholic clergy of child sexual abuse

Sexual abuse on a global scale

The address reflected the seriousness of a slew of sexual abuse scandals that have hit the church this year from the United States and Germany to Chile and Australia.

Francis came under fire earlier this year when he defended a bishop in Chile accused of covering up sex abuse scandals, only to later launch an investigation and accept the bishop's resignation. He ultimatelydefrocked three Chilean bishops. 

"It is undeniable that some in the past, out of irresponsibility, disbelief, lack of training, inexperience, or spiritual and human short-sightedness, treated many cases without the seriousness and promptness that was due," he said.

"That must never happen again. This is the choice and the decision of the whole church."

The address comes two months before the pontiff convenes bishops for a conference on responding to sexual abuse during which the "church will restate her firm resolve to pursue unstintingly a path of purification," Francis said.

cw/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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