Pope Francis has issued a plea for the eradication of child abuse "from the face of the earth".
At the Vatican on Sunday morning he said: "I make a heartfelt appeal for the all-out fight against child abuse, in the sexual field as in other fields, by all authorities and individuals."
These were “abominable crimes that must be erased from the face of the earth: this the many victims hidden in families and in various areas of our societies ask for”, he said.
He was speaking in a concluding address at the end of a four-day meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church which has been taking place at the Vatican since Thursday last and which was attended by 190 Catholic Church leaders from around the world.
Pope Francis said that “the severity of the plague of sexual abuse against minors is a historically widespread phenomenon unfortunately in all cultures and societies”.
It had become, “only relatively recently, the subject of systematic studies, thanks to the change in public awareness of a problem in the past considered taboo, that is to say that everyone knew of its presence but no one spoke about it”, he said.
Looking to the incidence of clerical child sexual abuse, he said: “The inhumanity of the phenomenon worldwide becomes even more serious and more scandalous in the Church, because it is in contrast with its moral authority and its ethical credibility.”
“Faced with such cruelty, with so much idolatrous sacrifice of children to god power, money, pride, empirical explanations are not enough; these are not able to make understand the breadth and depth of this drama.”
He said in “the justified rage of the people, the Church sees the reflection of God’s wrath, betrayed and slapped by these dishonest consecrated persons”.
“The echo of the silent cry of the little ones, that instead of finding, in their paternity, spiritual guides have found the executioners, will make the hearts tremble, anaesthetized by hypocrisy and power. We have a duty to listen attentively to this stifled silent cry.”
This meant it was “ therefore necessary to change mentality to combat the defensive-reactive attitude to safeguard the institution, for the benefit of a sincere and decisive search for the good of the community, giving priority to victims of abuse in every sense”, he said.
The Church’s goal “will be to listen, protect, protect and care for abused, exploited and forgotten children, wherever they are”.
“To achieve this goal, the Church must rise above all ideological polemics and journalistic policies that often exploit the same dramas experienced by children in various interests,” he said.
The time had come “to work together to eradicate this brutality from the body of our humanity, taking all the necessary measures already in force at the international level and at the ecclesial level”.
“The time has come to find the right balance of all the values at stake and to give uniform guidelines for the Church,” he said.
So doing, it must avoid “the two extremes of a justicialism, provoked by the sense of guilt for past errors and by the pressure of the media world, and a self-defence that does not address the causes and consequences of these serious crimes”, he said.
He expressed “a heartfelt thanks to all the priests and consecrated persons who serve the Lord faithfully and totally and who feel dishonoured and discredited by the shameful behaviour of some of their confreres”.
He thanked on behalf of the whole Church, “the overwhelming majority of priests who are not only faithful to their celibacy, but spend themselves in a ministry made today even more difficult by the scandals of a few (but always too many) their confreres”.
“ And thanks also to the faithful who know their good pastors well and continue to pray for them and to support them.”
The "best result and the most effective resolution we can give to the victims, to the people of the Holy Mother Church and to the whole world are the commitment to a personal and collective conversion, the humility to learn, to listen, to assist and protect the most vulnerable", he said.