Pope Francis has told bishops around the world they must adhere to a policy of zero tolerance for clergy who sexually abuse children and begged forgiveness for "a sin that shames us".
In a letter sent on Dec. 28 but released by the Vatican only on Monday, Francis said: "I would like us to renew our complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst." Since his election in 2013, Francis has taken some steps to root out sexual abuse in the Church and to put in place practices to protect children. But victims' groups say he has not done enough, particularly to hold to account bishops who tolerated sexual abuse or covered it up.
"(The Church) recognises the sins of some of her members: the sufferings, the experiences and the pain of minors who were abused sexually by priests. It is a sin that shames us," Francis wrote in the letter.
"I would like us to renew our complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst. Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated. In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to 'zero tolerance'," he said.