Written by by Sandra Pedicini, CNN Rome
The Pope has thanked reporters for their “commitment” to bring his recent public hearings of priests’ past sexual abuses, and “to the glory of God, for having never made excuses and mostly for having acknowledged them and shown in the absolute absence of any responsibility.”
The Pope told journalists that journalists who make reference to the report filed by a German magazine, Süddeutsche Zeitung , that documents contradict the Church’s official response to the scandals, “enables us to publicly draw up a plan to respond with greater responsibility and spiritual security to the most difficult aspects of the scandal.”
On March 22, Pope Francis’ four-hour public hearing with members of his small, secret commission on sexual abuse in the Church was broadcast worldwide. The hearing yielded the most extensive release of documents to date from the Vatican.
More than 60 hours of video and audio recordings were released from the session, including three hours of discussion of several of the commission’s members and their own experience with sexual abuse. The content of the recordings was kept secret until this week.
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The testimonies are likely to further damage the Vatican’s efforts to move forward from a decade of the most devastating scandal the Catholic Church has ever faced.
Between 1950 and 2002, thousands of young people in Europe, the United States and around the world were sexually abused by priests. In the United States alone, the total number of cases reached 2,000.
The Catholic Church has lost more than one billion dollars from donations and business deals in Europe due to the scandal, and several countries have forced the Church to divest holdings.
Several provinces in the United States took control of their clergy from the Vatican, and in Europe, the Vatican took over control of millions of pounds worth of its own investment funds.
“A central hope in Catholicism is the church… a community of light, a community of Jesus Christ who will lead us at our journey and bring us to God,” the Pope said in his interview.
“As a religious person of that community — or as a person of a first communion or a gladdening family — I want to confirm what the Lord Jesus said,” he added.
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Recalling his own experiences with abuse, Pope Francis said: “I had the most distressing episodes of my life. I had to pretend that I wasn’t taken in by something that was not real. It was painful, I had to pretend.”
Describing the need for more transparency and openness in the church, the Pope said the only way “to heal the wounds of these words is by being able to recognize the errors of the past, so that we can draw up correct procedures, and… enough power to tell the whole truth.”
“A priest will be responsible, even at the level of the head, if he does not contribute correctly to the consecration and the care of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he said.
Acknowledging the continued strength and love of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis said he wanted people to see the “growing maturity” of the Catholic church and to not turn away from it.
A man in Brazil (left) bows in front of Pope Francis, during a victory mass in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 21, 2018. Courtesy Christophe Bois, Vatican press office/Handout via REUTERS
“There are many things that will cause a lot of pleasure but will never be close to reconciliation… That is the reality,” he said.
“It is, therefore, the heart of the church that which means we love one another, it’s a strong love … it’s not just that one love that covers you but many little pieces. That’s the heart of the church,” he added.