DUBLIN • Pope Francis said in a letter released yesterday by the Vatican that the Catholic Church has not dealt properly with "crimes" against children and needs to prevent sexual abuses from being "covered up and perpetuated".
"We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them," he wrote in the letter addressed to all the world's Catholics.
A Vatican official said it was the first time a pope had written to the world's some 1.2 billion Catholics about sexual abuse.
Past letters on the scandal have been addressed to bishops and the faithful in individual countries.
It marks one of Pope Francis' most direct attempts to address the abuse cases that have eroded the Roman Catholic Church's credibility. He did not lay out any concrete steps the Vatican would take, but acknowledged that systemic change was needed.
"Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such (abuses) from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated," he said.
The letter was issued after the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that documented alleged abuse in the state by more than 300 priests against 1,000 children over seven decades.
The Pope said the Pennsylvania report reflected "abuse of power and of conscience". But he did not reference other scandals in the United States, Chile or Australia that have ensnared his papacy.
This weekend, the pontiff will travel to Ireland, a country scarred by decades of sexual abuse in parishes and in Catholic-run schools.
In Dublin, many have demanded that he acknowledge during his trip the role that church higher-ups played in silencing victims and helping to keep paedophile priests on the job.
WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS