Pope Francis urges predator priests to turn themselves in, face justice

Pope Francis has urged priests who have raped and molested children to turn themselves in and prepare for “divine justice,” in his strongest condemnations yet of the Roman Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis.
The pope pledged that the church would “never again” cover up or dismiss sexual abuse cases.
“To those who abuse minors I would say this: convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice,” Francis said during his Christmas address to the Curia, the Vatican’s central administration, Reuters reported.
The pope admitted that the church had failed to act on this issue in the past, acknowledging that leaders refused to believe victims.
“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,” Francis said, according to The Associated Press.
The pope’s message comes at the end of one of the toughest years of his papacy. Francis started off the year by passionately defending a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse of minors, dismissing the testimony of abuse survivors as “slander.” Months later, he admitted he made “grave errors” in his handling of Chile’s abuse crisis.
Later in the year, the crisis in the U.S. reached a fever pitch after a Pennsylvania grand jury published a devastating report into sexual abuse in the state that identified 301 predator priests and more than 1,000 victims. The report has sparked similar attempts by state prosecutors around the country.

The pope has also been beset this year by accusations from a Vatican insider that Francis and others in the hierarchy were complicit in covering up abuse carried out by former American Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Francis has not directly responded to the claims he was complicit, which are still unsubstantiated.

The pope has called for a global bishops’ summit on sexual abuse in February, which will be attended by the heads of about 110 national Catholic bishops’ conferences, the leaders of religious orders and abuse experts, Reuters reports.
Francis vowed to turn “past mistakes” on handling the crisis into “opportunities for eliminating this scourge.”

“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.”
.This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

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