2. SOUNDBITE (English) Nicole Winfield, AP Vatican Correspondent:
"Well, this is a letter issued to Catholics around the world just making very clear that the Pope condemns sexual abuse and he condemns the cover-up that has been blamed for this crisis. It was issued to the people of God, not just to the people of the United States or Ireland or Chile, but to the Catholic world in general."
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Nicole Winfield, AP Vatican Correspondent:
"There is still a lot of doubt - even the immediate reaction today from some of the survivors in Ireland are: 'Ok - that's fine - these are words but there are bishops who are currently in power who covered up. There are Vatican officials who were responsible for this silencing of victims over decades. When are you going to start taking action against them? When are you going to acknowledge and name names of those who have been responsible?' So I think for survivors, while the words are strong, they're really looking to see action."
"It's significant that the Pope calls abuse a crime and not just a sin, but he also acknowledges at the same time that no effort to repair the damage done will ever be sufficient for victims and survivors."
6. SOUNDBITE (English) Nicole Winfield, AP Vatican Correspondent:
"He's not saying that he himself is going to do anything which is significant since the Pope alone can sanction a bishop, so while he encourages efforts that are underway to safeguard children, to hold accountable bishops, really the task is up to him alone, because only the Pope can take measures against a bishop. We know that he has started to move on the crisis in Chile, he's accepted the resignations of five bishops but the crisis is much broader than Chile and survivors will be waiting to see if he takes any action against bishops implicated in cover-up outside of Chile."
Pope Francis issued a letter to Catholics around the world on Monday condemning the crime of priestly sexual abuse and its cover-up and demanding accountability, in response to new revelations in the United States of decades of misconduct by the Catholic Church.
Francis begged forgiveness for the pain suffered by victims and said lay Catholics must be involved in any effort to root out abuse and cover-up.
He blasted the clerical culture that has been blamed for the crisis, with church leaders more concerned for their reputation than the safety of children.
The Vatican issued the three-page letter ahead of Francis' trip this weekend to Ireland, a once staunchly Roman Catholic country where the church's credibility has been devastated by years of revelations that priests raped and molested children with impunity and their superiors covered up for them.
Priestly sex abuse was always expected to dominate the trip, but the issue has taken on new gravity following revelations in the U.S. that one of Francis' trusted cardinals, the retired archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, allegedly sexually abused and harassed minors as well as adult seminarians.
In addition, a grand jury report in Pennsylvania last week reported that at least 1,000 children were victims of some 300 priests over the past 70 years, and that generations of bishops failed repeatedly to take measures to protect their flock or punish the rapists.
In the letter, which was issued in seven languages, Francis referred to the Pennsylvania report, acknowledged that no effort to beg forgiveness of the victims will be sufficient but vowed "never again."
Francis didn't, however, provide any indication of what concrete measures he is prepared to take to sanction those bishops — in the U.S. and beyond — who covered up for sexually abusive priests.
Francis several years ago scrapped a proposed Vatican tribunal to prosecute negligent bishops, and he has refused to act on credible reports from around the world of bishops who have failed to report abusers to police or otherwise botched handling cases, and yet remain in office.
Francis also has kept on his nine-member kitchen cabinet a Chilean cardinal long accused of covering up for peadophiles, an Australian cardinal currently on trial for historic sex abuse charges and a Honduran cardinal recently implicated in a gay priest sex scandal involving his trusted deputy.
In Chile, where a church sex abuse scandal exploded earlier this year, Francis strong-armed the country's 31 active bishops to offer their resignations en masse over their handling of abuse.
So far he has accepted five of their resignations.
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