Vatican clarifies Pope's statement on sexual abuse of nuns

Vatican clarifies Pope's statement on sexual abuse of nuns

Pope Francis has said that the Roman Catholic Church has faced a persistent problem of sexual abuse of nuns by priests and even bishops.

The Vatican, for example, launched an investigation previous year into a small religious order in Chile after sisters reported some of their fellow nuns had been thrown out of the congregation after they brought their complaints of abuse by priests to their mother superior.

"It is the first time that the pope, but also the church as an institution, has publicly admitted this abuse is taking place, and that's hugely important", Lucetta Scaraffia, editor of the Vatican's women's magazine, told AFP on Wednesday.

Men occupy the higher levels in the Catholic Church, it says, and they have been the one creating an atmosphere of fear for speaking up against authority.

Get breaking news on your Mobile as-it-happens. Reportedly, a representative to more than 500,000 Catholic nuns, the International Union of Superiors General, encouraged its members to report abuse.

We asked her what she made of the Pope's comments.

Francis said the Vatican has "suspended some clerics, sent them away for this" and "dissolved" some orders of nuns "that were very tied up in this, a corruption".

"For the first time - he continued - a Pope has traveled to the Arabian peninsula". The acknowledgment comes just two weeks before he hosts an unprecedented gathering of bishops to craft a global response to the scandal of priestly predators who target children and the superiors who covered up the crimes. "Is there will? Yes, but it's a path that we have already begun".

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Francis said the problem could be found "anywhere" but was prevalent in "some new congregations and in some regions". "And I think that it's continuing because it's not like once you realize it that it stops".

Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti later confirmed that Pope Benedict dissolved the Community of St. Jean in France in 2005. Mulakkal, 53, who headed the diocese of Jalandhar in the northern state of Punjab, has denied the allegations.

Investigative reports dating back to the 1990s revealed that nuns in several countries suffered systematic abuse, but Tuesday marks the first time the Church has officially acknowledged the problem. The women were reportedly removed from the order after highlighting the abuse.

Last year, the Associated Press discovered cases of nuns having been sexually abused in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia.

What have women in the Church said?

The Pope said the abuse came from "seeing women as second class". "Pray that this goes forward", he said of the Vatican efforts to address abuse.

Last year, French website Le Parisien reported the case of "Christelle" (in French), a former nun whose name was changed to preserve anonymity.

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