Pope Francis thanks the Madonna after UAE visit

Leroy Wright
February 9, 2019

Pope Francis has admitted that Catholic priests and bishops have sexually abused nuns, the latest scandal to rock the church.

The Pope admitted to the problem for the first time in public during a conference while returning to Rome from the United Arab Emirates.

"It is true. there have been priests and even bishops who have done this", Francis said, according to Reuters.

He highlighted the case of the Community of St. Jean, where women were kept in "sexual slavery" at the hands of the priests, noting the "courage" of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in shutting down the facility.

Associated Press: "After decades of silence, nuns talk about abuse by priests" - "The nun no longer goes to confession regularly, after an Italian priest forced himself on her while she was at her most vulnerable: recounting her sins to him in a university classroom almost 20 years ago".

Pope Francis first met the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, during a 2017 apostolic visit to Egypt.

Francis said Benedict had attempted to look into the order before he become pope. "But it's a path that we have already begun", he added.

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Last November, the organisation representing the world's Catholic women's religious orders, the International Union of Superiors General, publicly denounced the "culture of silence and secrecy" that contributed to abuse, and urged nuns to report abuse to law enforcement.

"I think it's still going on, because it's not something that just goes away like that".

For years, cases of abuse of women in the church have always been known.

"There are cases, usually in new congregations and in some regions more than others", he said. And Francis acknowledged Tuesday that some priests have been suspended because of such abuse of women in the church. The issue hit the headlines previous year after a nun accused an Indian bishop of repeatedly raping her in a case that triggered rare dissent within the country's Catholic Church. "There were so many people!" he said.

She said the issue was abusive power relationships, with clerics controlling everything from nuns' vocations to their salaries.

"I can't say "this does not happen in my house".

He recalled that over one million Christians live in the UAE, mainly workers from Asian countries, and that he met with representatives of the Catholic community at Abu Dhabi's St Josepth Cathedral, celebrating a mass with patriarchs, archbishops and bishops in which they "prayed in particular for peace and justice, with special intention for the Middle East and Yemen". "Many complaints have been filed with the Vatican and have not been followed up", said Scaraffia, who raised the issue in the February issue of "Women Church World", a supplement distributed with the Vatican's Osservatore Romano newspaper.

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