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Pope Francis slams Church members for their lethargic response to ignored sex scandals on his visit to Portugal

During his visit to Portugal, Pope Francis criticized the members of the country’s Church institutions for their sluggish response to a long-ignored sexual scandal, which he said had tarnished the reputation of the Catholic Church and driven believers away.

On Wednesday (August 2), the pontiff met with survivors of clergy sexual abuse in Lisbon and made strong comments against the Catholic hierarchy, urging them to treat the victims better.

His five-day visit to the predominantly Catholic country coincides with the massive World Youth Day celebrations in Lisbon.

According to the Vatican, Francis met with 13 abuse victims for more than an hour at the Vatican Embassy, with the victims accompanied by church personnel in charge of child protection programs.

This visit comes after a damning report published in February, which claimed that priests and other church personnel may have abused at least 4,815 boys and girls since 1950. The report was prepared by a panel of experts hired by Portugal bishops over a year ago, and it caused significant upheaval within the country’s Church establishment.

Even before the report was published, Portuguese church officials tried to downplay the issue by claiming that only a few cases were reported. And after its release, they initially refused to remove named abusers from ministry or compensate victims.

In his statement, Francis acknowledged that sexual abuse cases had caused many clergy and nuns to feel wary of their vocations and had distanced the Catholic faithful from their faith. He emphasized the need for humility, purification, and listening to the anguished cry of the victims.

Earlier on Wednesday, Bishop Jose Ornelas, the head of the Portuguese bishops’ conference, promised to devote special attention to protecting the welfare of children and preventing all kinds of abuse.

There were also plans to build a memorial for the victims, scheduled to be unveiled during World Youth Day, but the Portuguese Catholic Church canceled the plan a few weeks ago.

During his trip, Francis will have further meetings with abuse survivors, as he has done during past foreign trips.


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