Pope urges US bishops to stop abuse

  • 24/09/2015
Pope Francis (Reuters)
Pope Francis (Reuters)

Pope Francis has told US bishops to work to ensure the sex abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church never happens again.

"I realise how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you," he said, at a prayer service with the bishops in Washington on Wednesday (local time) - the first full day of a US visit.

"And I have supported your generous commitment to bring healing to victims - in the knowledge that, in healing, we too are healed - and to work to ensure such crimes will never be repeated," he said.

The Pope disappointed many American followers by deciding not to meet with the victims of sex abuse by priests, but he was not able to avoid the issue altogether.

Some 6400 Catholic clergy have been accused of abusing minors in the United States between 1950 and 1980, and campaigners' fears that the number should be higher.

Experts speaking at the Vatican said in 2012 the number of abused American minors is probably close to 100,000.

Besides the abuse itself, bishops and the Vatican have been accused of protecting suspected abusers and giving alleged victims the cold shoulder.

In June, Francis sacked two US bishops accused of looking the other way: the archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, John Clayton Nienstedt, and his aide Lee Anthony Piche.

And earlier this month the Vatican replaced Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, who resigned in April after failing to report a priest accused of pedophilia.

The pedophilia scandal has had serious financial implications for the church in America.

Since the first revelations in the 2000s, the church has spent US$3 billion (NZ$4.8 billion) on legal costs and rehabilitation for offenders, according to watchdog Bishop Accountability.