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Pope Francis calls for 'all-out battle' on child sex abuse

media Pope Francis at the close of the four-day Vatican summit on tackling child abuse, 24 February 2019. CTV via REUTERS

Pope Francis has made an urgent call for an "all-out battle" against the abuse of minors, crimes which he said, “must be erased from the face of the earth”, at the close of a landmark Vatican summit on tackling clerical abuse.

The pope vowed to protect children and described clergy who sexually abuse them as “tools of Satan”.

Francis’ strong language follows three full days of discussions on how members of the Church must deal with protecting minors from sexual abuse.

He promised that guidelines used by national bishops’ conferences to prevent abuse and punish perpetrators would be reviewed and strengthened.

“The Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whoever has committed such crimes,” he said. “The Church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case.

“The brutality of the worldwide phenomenon of abuse…is utterly incompatible with the Church’s moral authority and ethical credibility.”

‘Human sacrifice’

Pope Francis compared child sex abuse to “human sacrifice”, "the cruel religious practice, once widespread in certain cultures, of sacrificing human beings – frequently children – in pagan rites”.

A mass was held on Sunday in conclusion of the Vatican summit. It was celebrated in one of the frescoed rooms of the Apostolic Palace. Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge delivered the homily.

“A mission stretches before us – a mission demanding not just words, but real concrete action. We will do all we can to bring justice and healing to survivors of abuse. We will listen to them, believe them and walk with them,” he said.

‘We dare not fail’

The Archbishop of Brisbane vowed that the Church would do all in its power to make sure that the horrors of the past are not repeated and that the Church be a safe place for all.

“All of this will take time but we do not have forever and we dare not fail," he said.

After the Sunday Angelus prayer in Saint Peter’s Square, Pope Francis told the faithful that the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy has for some time brought serious scandal due to the dramatic suffering of the victims and unjustifiable lack of attention and cover-up by members of the Church.

Pope Francis said the Church has listened to the voices of victims and asked forgiveness. He vowed to make the Church completely safe for minors and to ensure that its mission returns to being credible and trustworthy.

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