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Rome Reports

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10 years of Pope Francis: how he's combatting abuse

Over the past 10 years, Pope Francis has siezed every opportunity to condemn the scourge of abuse and to apologize for the fact that it exists in the Church at all. And he started in Rome.

Before God and his people I express my sorrow.

Then in the United States and Ireland.

I deeply regret it. God weeps.

We ask forgiveness.

And once more when he was in Chile.

I am ashamed of the irreparable damage inflicted on children.

When allegations of abuse first emerged in Chile, Pope Francis had difficulty accepting they were credible. But after visiting the country and commissioning an investigation, he decided to take action. The result? The entire Chilean bishops conference resigned.

Diocese of San Bernardo, Chile
We want to ask forgiveness for the pain experienced by the victims, the Pope, the people of God and the country, by our grave errors and omissions.

Two well-known Church leaders credibly accused of abusing minors and vulnerable adults were expeled from the priesthood: Fernando Karadima and Theodore McCarrick, former Archbishop of Washington, D.C.

In 2019 Pope Francis summoned the leaders of the world's bishops' conferences to the Vatican. The objective of this unprecedented meeting was to spread awareness among the Catholic hierarchy by listening to the testimonies of victims.

When you experience abuse you would like to put an end to it all. But it is not possible.

As reports of abuse continue to be published in many countries, victims and survivors are speaking out more frequently and expressing their frustrations.

There's no name, there's no date, there's no concrete measure. They are just words and more words.

But since 2019 there have been concrete measures like the elimination of pontifical secrecy, meaning the Church can share information with civil authorities. The Pope has also created a clear procedure to prosecute negligent or abusive bishops, and established offices where victims or relatives can file complaints and request support. 

In 2021, the Code of Canon Law was specifically reformulated to include a section dedicated to crimes of abuse and their corresponding punishments. All this is Pope Francis' attempt to move from words to actions.