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article imagePope's apology on child sexual abuse fails to satisfy victims

By Abdul Kuddus     Apr 11, 2014 in World
In a strongly worded speech, Pope Francis sought forgiveness from victims of sexual abuse, assuring imposition of harsh penalties on priests who harm children.
The apology marks a shift in the stand of Roman Catholic Church’s defence of the clerical sex-abuse scandals.
During a meeting Friday at the Vatican, the pontiff aired the strongest sign of apology for the scandal which has damaged the church's moral standing in North America and Europe.
Francis was attending the meeting with members of the International Catholic Child Bureau, a French coalition of child-protection organizations, according to reports.
Los Angeles Times quoted Francis saying:
“The church is aware of this damage. It is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children.
Earlier Francis had defended the Vatican from a UN panel that criticized the Church’s passive response to cases of sexual abuse.
The UN report claimed that clerics were guilty of sexual abuse of "tens of thousands" of children and called on the Pope to remove all clergy who were known or suspected child abusers.
BBC quoted Francis’ interview with Corriere della Sera defending the actions of the Church saying:
"The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No one else has done more. Yet the Church is the only one to have been attacked."
Rights groups fighting for victims of sexual abuse had slammed the Pope’s remarks and accused the church of prioritizing its reputation over the protection of children.
Francis in his speech reportedly stressed the need to protect children from all forms of violence, including slavery and induction in child armies. Beginning with Pope Benedict XVI, the Church has taken an increasingly harsh stand on child abuse incidents.
Large number of cases of abuse by priests surfaced over the past decade and rights groups accused the Church of trying to cover up the crimes.
But the Vatican’s zero-tolerance approach to root out child abuse by priests reportedly varies between different countries.
The Church continues to defrock a large number of priests accused of molesting children and has also stiffened penalties in the Vatican legal code.
Pope Francis took over a year before from Benedict XVI, whose papacy was hit by rising allegations of sexual abuse by priests.
In late March, Francis appointed an anti-abuse team to deal with child abuse in the Catholic Church.
Despite the actions from the Church, victims' groups accused that it did too little because the abuse and cover-ups by the Church hasn’t stopped.
While it is the first time a pope has spoken of punishing guilty priests, the US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests reacted:
"We beg the world's Catholics: Be impressed by deeds, not words. Until the Pope takes decisive action that protects kids, be sceptical and vigilant."
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