In an unprecedented letter on Monday this week, Pope Francis has begged for forgiveness following a grand jury report last week that found that more than 1,000 children were sexually abused by “predator priests” in Pennsylvania for decades.
He said Catholic leaders were to be blamed, stating that “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”
“With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community, that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives,” the Pope wrote in a 2,000-word letter addressed to the “People of God.”
The damaging grand jury report detailed allegations of rampant sexual abuse in parishes across Pennsylvania in the United States.
Abuse complaints were kept in the church’s so-called secret archive and church officials hid incidents, neglected to discipline priests or report them to law enforcement, according to the 1,356-page report.
“Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all,” the report said.
In his letter on Monday, Pope Francis said Catholic leaders who have failed to protect children, must still be held accountable.
“It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable,” he wrote. “Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others.”