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VATICAN CITY

Pope shows means business on fighting child abuse

English
© ANSA

Vatican City, September 24 - Pope Francis said he
wanted the Catholic Church to have "zero tolerance" with cases
of child abuse after being elected to its helm last year.
The arrest in the Vatican Tuesday of a former archbishop,
Pole Jozef Wesolowski, on charges of allegedly abusing children
while he was a papal ambassador in the Dominican Republic has
been interpreted as a sign that actions are backing up the
pontiff's words.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the arrest
was conducted "in accordance with the Pope's express will that
such a grave and delicate case be addressed without delay, with
the just and necessary rigor".
The arrest was the first inside the Vatican for alleged
paedophilia.
Wesolowski, who was recalled to Rome last year, was
defrocked by a Vatican canon law tribunal in June after being
found guilty of child abuse. This followed an investigation by
the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the former Holy
Inquisition, which handles sex-abuse cases.
The 66-year-old was put under house arrest on Tuesday at a
facility inside the Vatican, rather than taken to a cell, due to
ill health, pending a criminal trial.
He could face six or seven years in prison, Lombardi said
Wednesday, adding that the former archbishop was also charged
with possessing child pornography and that his trial will start
late this year or early in 2015.
The possible sentence would have been much longer, but
Lombardi said that new stiffer Vatican laws on paedophilia that
came into force in September 2013 could not be applied as the
alleged crimes took place before.
Lombardi explained that Wesolowski's arrest was aimed at
"preventing the possibility that the accused would flee and
possible evidence tampering".
The Church's image has been tarnished by a long series of
clergy paedophilia scandals in several parts of the world, many
of which emerged during the papacy of Francis's predecessor,
Benedict XVI.
Sex-abuse cases have cost Catholic dioceses and religious
orders around the world billions of dollars in legal fees and
settlements.
In February the United Nations Committee on the Rights of
the Child said in a report that the Holy See had "adopted
policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the
abuse by, and the impunity of, the perpetrators".
Francis has made repairing the damage by the scandals one
of his priorities.
He has apologised for the abuse several times.
He also stiffened the punishments in the Holy See's law on
paedophilia and set up a special commission to advise him on how
the Catholic Church should protect children and help victims of
sexual abuse by the clergy
The pope appointed three clergy and five lay people from
eight countries, with seven from Europe or the United States,
including four women.
At a Mass for victims in July, Francis made an anguished
plea for forgiveness over child-abuse scandals, begging that the
Catholic Church be absolved for sex crimes.
"I ask forgiveness before God and His people," the pope
said about a phenomenon that brings 600 cases worldwide to the
Vatican's door each year.
"I also beg forgiveness for the sins of omission by Church
leaders", he added, referring to well-publicised cover-ups
around the Catholic world.
Priests' sexual violence against children is "execrable"
and "left scars lasting a lifetime".
On Wednesday David Clohessy, the Director of the Survivors
Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), welcomed Wesolowski's
arrest but said the Church was not going far enough.
He alleged that Vatican was still protecting Wesolowski,
who is under investigation in the Dominican Republic, from
secular prosecution.
"While we are glad Wesolowski has allegedly been
restricted, we are concerned it took so long for this to happen
and doubt strongly that Catholic officials will enforce this
move," added Clohessy.

http://popefrancisnewsapp.com/

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