Pope Francis has made his strongest condemnation yet of child abuse by Catholic clergy on Friday, asking for forgiveness and pledging to impose penalties on “men of the church”.
The statement, made in a meeting with a child rights group, is being described as his strongest the issue so far.
Last month, Pope Francis strongly defended the Roman Catholic Church’s record on tackling abuse by priests, following UN criticism.
The Pope set up a committee last year to organize help for victims of clerical abuse but has been accused by some Catholics of dragging his feet in acknowledging the extent of the moral and mental damage caused by paedophile priests.
He said that the number of priests who had committed abuses were “quite a few in number”, although “obviously not compared to the number of all the priests”.
“We will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed,” he said, adding: “We have to be even stronger”.
Alessandra Aula of International Catholic Child Bureau, the children’s non-governmental organization that was at the Vatican for the Pope’s address, welcomed his comments.
The Catholic Church has faced numerous allegations of child abuse by priests around the world and criticism over inadequate responses by bishops.
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