Pope Francis said Monday every effort must be made to ensure the culture of the Catholic Church prevents future clerical sexual abuse of children and to make sure that if such abuses do take place, they cannot be covered up.
The pope’s comments came in a letter to the world’s Catholics in response to the latest revelations of abuses by clergy members.
Last week, a U.S. grand jury report said more than 300 predator priests had abused more than 1,000 children in six Pennsylvania dioceses over the span of 70 years.
“Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims,” Francis said in his letter.
He said with “shame and repentance” the Catholic Church acknowledges it did not act in a timely manner and realize the amount of damage the abusers have done to so many people.
Francis said “no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient.”
The church has long faced cases of sexual abuse by the clergy in many countries. In the past month alone, the pope accepted the resignation of an Australian archbishop convicted in May for covering up child abuse, as well as the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who has also been accused of sexual abuse.
Francis noted in his letter ongoing efforts to address the problem and ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults while holding responsible those who commit abuses.
“We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future,” he wrote.
He said without the participation of all Catholics, the efforts to “uproot the culture of abuse” will fail.
“It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetuated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for the most vulnerable,” Pope Francis said.