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'Shame and Sadness': Vatican Expresses Support for Victims of Predator Priests

© REUTERS / Stefano RellandiniPope Francis leads the Easter mass in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican April 16, 2017
Pope Francis leads the Easter mass in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican April 16, 2017 - Sputnik International
The Vatican said in a statement on Thursday Pope Francis was on the side of victims of more than 300 predator priests in the United States accused of a sexual abuse and rape of more than 1,000 children in the state of Pennsylvania.

"Victims should know that the pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the Church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent," Greg Burke, the spokesman of the Holy See, said in a statement carried by Vatican News.

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"There are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow," Greg Burke said.

The Vatican said it condemned "unequivocally" the sexual abuse of minors by priests, calling the crimes described in the Tuesday report "morally reprehensible."

"The Church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur," Burke stressed.

He also urged clerics to comply with civil law, including mandatory requirements to report child abuse to civil authorities, amid longstanding accusations of cover-ups by high-ranking priests. The spokesman argued that most of the reported abuses took place before the early 2000s, showing that Catholic Church’s reforms in the United States helped drastically reduce clergy child abuse.

On Tuesday, a grand jury report revealed more than a half million internal church documents from "secret archives" maintained by every diocese in the state, which contained both allegations and admissions of the abuse and cover-up.

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Moreover, the cover-up lasted decades as the church hierarchy attempted to delay accountability until the statute of limitations would run out and therefore prevent prosecution, making nearly every instance of abuse too old to be prosecuted.

The report identified 301 Catholic priests as predators and more than 1,000 child victims, with the grand jury noting that the likely number of victims was in the "thousands".

The report also recommended that the state eliminate the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, create a civil window so older victims can sue for damages and clarify criminal penalties for failure to report abuse.

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