Pope says sorry for Church scandals

VATICAN CITY • Pope Francis asked for forgiveness yesterday for scandals at the Vatican and in Rome, an apparent reference to two cases of priests and gay sex revealed this month during a major meeting of bishops.

"Today... in the name of the Church, I ask you for forgiveness for the scandals that have occurred recently either in Rome or in the Vatican," the pontiff said in unprepared remarks during his weekly general audience in St Peter's Square.

He then read his prepared address and did not elaborate, but there have been two scandals involving the Vatican and the Church in Rome in the past two weeks.

On Oct 3, a Polish monsignor working in the Vatican's doctrinal office since 2003 held a packed news conference during which he disclosed that he was gay and had been living with another man for years.

The Vatican dismissed Monsignor Krzysztof Charamsa, a theologian, from his job there as well as from teaching assignments in pontifical universities in Rome.

POPE'S APOLOGY

Today... in the name of the Church, I ask you for forgiveness for the scandals that have occurred recently either in Rome or in the Vatican.

POPE FRANCIS, in unprepared remarks during his weekly general audience in St Peter's Square

A spokesman said at the time that Monsignor Krzysztof's high-profile coming out on the eve of a meeting of world bishops at the Vatican was "grave and irresponsible". It accused him of trying to exert "undue media pressure" on the bishops' debate on family issues, including the Church's position on gays.

The Pope also appeared to be referring to a scandal exposed in the Italian media last week about an order of priests who run a parish in a well-to-do neighbourhood in Rome.

Parishioners in the Santa Teresa d'Avila parish wrote to local church officials alleging that a clergyman there had encounters with "vulnerable adults".

Newspapers said these took place in an adjacent park frequented by male prostitutes.

According to the letter published in the media, parishioners said they had assembled evidence about the clergyman's illicit activities and were furious to discover he had been transferred to another part of Italy instead of being disciplined.

Vatican expert Joshua McElwee, writing in the National Catholic Reporter, described the apology as an "extraordinary step".

Since his election in 2013, the Pope has sought forgiveness for sexual abuse of children by the clergy, and for the Church's treatment of Protestants and indigenous people in the course of its history.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2015, with the headline 'Pope says sorry for Church scandals'. Print Edition | Subscribe