Pope declares ‘zero tolerance’ for Catholic Church abuse, says he takes personal responsibility for ending it

(CNN) – Pope Francis says he has taken it upon himself to rid the Catholic Church of sexual abuse, telling CNN partner channel CNN Portugal that he was “responsible that this doesn’t happen again.”

In an exclusive, high-profile interview in Rome last month, the Pontiff said the Church has “zero tolerance” for abuse and said “a priest cannot remain a priest if he is an abuser “.

The church’s response to sex abuse scandals has become one of the defining themes of Francis’ time as pope, and he told CNN Portugal that every case of abuse within the church “the injured person”.

Several reports detailing decades of sexual abuse, systemic failures and cover-ups in multiple countries have emerged since Francis became the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics in 2013. Although he has been criticized for some of his actions, such as when he defended a Chilean bishop accused of covering up a sex scandal in 2018, a decision he later called a “serious mistake” – he has since taken a tough stance on issues and introduced some reforms.

In 2019, he abolished Vatican confidentiality rules for sexual abuse cases and put in place new rules that made it mandatory for the first time for all dioceses to set up reporting systems for abuse and cover-ups. .

Two years later, he released the most comprehensive revision of Catholic Church law in four decades, urging bishops to take action against clerics who abuse minors and vulnerable adults. The rules also required action against priests who commit fraud or attempt to ordain women.

Addressing the subject, Francis said he does not believe celibacy played a role in causing the abuse.

“I don’t deny the abuse. Even if it was just a [case], it’s monstrous. Because you, priest, you, nun, have to take this boy, this girl to God and with that you are destroying their lives. It’s monstrous. It destroys lives. And then they come and ask you questions. Could it be that celibacy [is to blame]? It’s not about being single,” he said.

“It’s a thing in abuse, it’s a destructive, humanly evil thing,” he said. “In families there is no celibacy and all that and, sometimes, it happens. So it’s just the monstrosity of a man or a woman in the church who is psychologically sick or bad and uses his position for personal gratification,” he added. .

Criticism for War Commentaries

The Pope also revealed that he had been in contact with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking to him on the phone.

He said he had met Zelensky and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the past when they visited him in Rome. But when asked what he could say to the two, the pope replied: “I don’t know.

“I had a dialogue with the two [of them]. They both visited me here before the war. And I still believe that in dialogue we always move forward,” the Pope said. “You know who can’t talk? Animals. It’s pure instinct.”

Francis has been criticized for some of his comments about Russia’s war on Ukraine. In a June interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa, Francis said the war “may have been provoked or not prevented.” He said that before Russia invaded Ukraine, he met “a head of state” who “was very worried about how NATO was going.”

Last month, the pope angered Kyiv by referring to Russian political commentator Darya Dugina, the daughter of an ultra-nationalist philosopher, as one of the “innocent” victims of war after she was killed by a car bomb on the outskirts of Moscow.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has summoned the Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, to discuss Francis’ statement, saying it “unfairly” equates “aggressor and victim.”

The pope, who has previously indicated he would be willing to visit Kyiv and Moscow, told CNN Portugal such a visit was “up in the air.”

No pope has ever traveled to Moscow before. Pope John Paul II visited Ukraine in 2001.

He said he could not travel at the moment due to knee problems, but said his presence in Ukraine was “strong” as he had sent several cardinals to Kyiv to represent him.

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