Pope at Sex Abuse Summit: 'Listen to Cry of Little Ones'

Skeptics hope his vow for 'concrete and efficient measures' isn't an empty one
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 21, 2019 6:31 AM CST
Pope Francis speaks with Rev. Federico Lombardi, left, the former Vatican spokesman who's moderating the summit, at the opening of a sex abuse prevention summit at the Vatican on Thursday.   (Vincenzo Pinto/Pool Photo via AP)

(Newser) – "Simple and predictable condemnations" aren't what's needed to fight sex abuse within the Catholic Church; "concrete and efficient measures" are. That's according to Pope Francis, who kicked off on Thursday a four-day global summit on the matter in Rome in front of nearly 200 bishops, cardinals, and other clergy, per the National Catholic Reporter. The pontiff only spoke for two minutes, but his time at the podium was filled with promises to come down hard on the "evil" of abuse. "Faced with the scourge of sexual abuse committed by men of the Church against minors, I wanted to reach out to you," he said, telling attendees to "listen to the cry of the little ones who are seeking justice," per Reuters. Also included in the proceedings: survivor video testimonials and an emotional speech by Philippines Cardinal Luis Tagle, who noted victims had been dismissed much as Jesus was before crucifixion.

One victim called the scandal a "time bomb." "If [we] want to save the Church, we need to get our act together," that survivor's transcript read. Reuters reports that while some who heard Francis' words were "pleasantly surprised," others were wary, wondering if the summit was nothing more than a PR stunt. "Let's see how it ends up," one skeptic says. A senior Vatican official had previously noted that the church's entire credibility was "strongly at stake," per the Guardian. The paper also points to words the pope spoke before the summit, with the pontiff acknowledging issues within the church, but noting one "cannot live a whole life accusing, accusing, accusing" and that those who do are "the friends, cousins, and relatives of the devil." The Atlantic lays out what else to watch for during the summit. (Secret church rules were just revealed on how to deal with priests who father children.)

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