Pope expresses 'shame' at French sex abuse scandal

Vatican City (AFP) –


Pope Francis on Wednesday expressed his "shame" at the sexual abuse of children by French Catholic clergy, laid bare in a devastating report this week.

"I wish to express to the victims my sadness and pain for the trauma they have suffered. And also my shame, our shame, my shame for the inability of the Church for too long to put them at the centre of its concerns," the pontiff said in his general audience.

"I pray and we all pray together -- to you Lord the glory, to us the shame. This is the time for shame."

Francis urged the clergy to keep working to ensure such situations "are not repeated", offering his support to French priests to face up to "this trial that is hard but healthy".

And he invited French Catholics to "assume their responsibilities to ensure that the Church is a safe home for all".

An independent commission on Tuesday revealed that French Catholic clergy sexually abused around 216,000 minors over seven decades since 1950, a "massive phenomenon" that was covered up by a "veil of silence".

The commission's two-and-a-half-year inquiry and 2,500-page report prompted outrage as the Catholic Church in France and around the world faces a growing number of abuse claims and prosecutions.

The pope issued a statement through his spokesman Tuesday expressing his sorrow for the victims, but went further in a personal message delivered during his weekly general audience at the Vatican.