Newshour, Pope admits sexual abuse of nuns by clergy

Pope Francis blesses worshipers during the weekly general audience on Feb. 6 2019 at Paul-VI hall in the Vatican

Pope Francis blesses worshipers during the weekly general audience on Feb. 6 2019 at Paul-VI hall in the Vatican. Andreas Solaro—AFP Getty Images

Speaking on the return flight from his trip to the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, Pope Francis was responding to a question from a journalist on the abuse of nuns when he said: "It's true".

The Vatican's own newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, last week said abuse of nuns by priests and bishops at times is "made even worse by the fact that abuse of women brings about procreation and is therefore at the origin of forced abortions and children who aren't recognized by priests".

Mary Dispenza, a former nun who works with the American victims advocacy group, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (Snap), pushed the #Nunstoo hashtag on Twitter. The Pope spoke of greeting the first priest who went to those lands; "he is blind and in the wheelchair, but he has such a smile.".

Francis was asked about priests who target adult women - the religious sisters who are the backbone of the Catholic Church's education, health care and social service ministries around the globe - and whether the Holy See might consider a similar universal approach to combat that issue.

"It's a path that we've been on", he said. Last year, the International Union of Superiors General, which represents more than 500,000 Catholic nuns, urged their members to report abuse. She said she only told 2 people of the incident at the time, her provincial superior and her spiritual director because she felt silenced by the Catholic Church's culture of secrecy.

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Francis implied at the February 5 news conference that the abuse of nuns by clergymen was being handed on a case-by-case basis.

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Francis mentioned the case of one order of nuns in particular, in France, in which his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, had tried to take action but was thwarted by Vatican insiders.

Many are hoping that Pope Francis will do more to clearly outline the Church's plans to tackle the abuse at a conference in Rome, scheduled for later this month.

"There are cases, usually in new congregations and in some regions more than others", Francis said on Tuesday. Last year, a Kerala nun alleged that Bishop Franco Mulakkal had raped her 13 times between 2014 and 2016.

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Christelle said she had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a priest of her congregation in France between 2010 and 2011.

"He was unable to control himself... he had a split personality".

"I can't say "this does not happen in my house".

The magazine said the #MeToo movement meant more women were now coming forward with their stories.

He recalled that over one million Christians live in the UAE, mainly workers from Asian countries, and that he met with representatives of the Catholic community at Abu Dhabi's St Josepth Cathedral, celebrating a mass with patriarchs, archbishops and bishops in which they "prayed in particular for peace and justice, with special intention for the Middle East and Yemen".

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