Francis was speaking a day after a landmark report revealed that members of the Catholic clergy in France sexually assaulted approximately 216,000 minors over the past seven decades and that the Church made protecting the institution a priority. report to survivors who were asked to remain silent.
The number of abused minors rises to around 330,000 if we include victims of people who were not members of the clergy but who had other ties to the Church, such as Catholic schools and programs for children. youth.
The damning French report follows similar inquiries in other countries which have damaged the reputation of the Catholic Church in recent years.
In his weekly remarks to the Vatican on Wednesday morning, the Pope expressed his shame that the Church had ignored victims of sexual abuse for too long, saying he wanted the Church to be a “safe home for everyone” .
“I express the closeness and paternal support to the priests of France in the face of this evidence,” he said, adding: “It’s hard. But is it healthy. “
Francis also assured the survivors of sexual abuse of his prayers and said: “I wish to express my grief and my pain to the victims for the trauma they have suffered and also my shame, our shame, my shame for too long. inability of the church to put them at the center of its attention. “
The report specifies that “the Catholic Church is the place where the prevalence of sexual violence is the highest, apart from family circles and friends”. He revealed that children were also more likely to be abused in the Church than in public schools or summer camps.
Jean-Marc Sauvé, chairman of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) which wrote the report, said on Tuesday that while most of the violence occurred between 1950 and 1968, it still persists today. .
The mistreatment of minors within the Church accounts for nearly 4% of all sexual violence in France, according to Sauvé.
“The problem is not behind us, it is still there,” he said.
Between 2,900 and 3,200 attackers would have worked in the French Catholic Church between 1950 and 2020, out of a total of 115,000 priests and other clerics, according to the report.
And while the Church has taken “significant steps” to prevent sexual violence in recent years, the report described them as responsive and insufficient, warning that although “such acts of violence declined until the early 1990s , they have since stopped decreasing.
More than half of the abuses detailed in the report occurred before 1969, when the Church in France ignored abuses by people it put in power, according to Sauvé.
“This first period (…) is marked by the absolutely total indifference of the Church towards the victims. The suffering of the victims, the harm (sustained by) the victims, the trauma of the victims, in fact, doesn’t exist, ”Sauvé told CNN.
Over 70 years, “the attitude of the Church could be summed up in an attitude of dissimulation, of relativization or even of denial, with only a very recent recognition dating from 2015, and even then, unequally accepted by the dioceses and the institutions. religious, ”according to the report.
CNN’s Simon Bouvier and Sam Bradpiece contributed reporting.