Pope Francis has called on the church’s predator priests who have sexually abused children to turn themselves in.
Speaking Friday in his annual address to the Roman Catholic Church’s governing Curia at the Vatican, Francis said, “To those who abuse minors I would say this: convert and hand yourself over to human justice and prepare for divine justice.”
The Catholic church has been rocked in recent years by a worldwide sexual child abuse scandal that it has seemingly covered up for decades.
“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,” Francis said. “This must never happen again.”
Francis, the leader of the world’s more than one billion Roman Catholics, said predator priests “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 added, “Often behind their boundless amiability, impeccable activity and angelic faces, they shamelessly conceal a vicious wolf ready to devour innocent souls.”
Bishops, leaders of religious organizations and experts are set to participate in a conference at the Vatican in February about the sexual abuse crisis.
Some victims are hopeful the conference will finally establish a clear policy that makes bishops accountable for the mishandling of sexual abuse cases.