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Campaigner: Pope's letter on sexual abuse and cover-ups within Church is 'too little too late'

Pope Francis has written an unprecedented letter to all the world's Catholics just days before his visit to Ireland. Picture by AP
Suzanne McGonagle and PA

A VICTIMS' campaigner has described an intervention by Pope Francis on sexual abuse and cover-ups within the Catholic Church as "too little too late".

Pope Francis has written an unprecedented letter to all the world's Catholics just days before his visit to Ireland stating that the abuse "was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced".

He urged a culture of care at present and in the future as he published the strongly-worded letter on the subject.

"We have realised that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death," he said.

A Vatican official said it was the first time a pope had written to all of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics about sexual abuse with past letters on the scandal addressed to bishops and faithful in individual countries.

But the statement was last night criticised by Margaret McGuckin, who campaigns for victims of clerical abuse in Northern Ireland.

"It is a last-ditch attempt to see what he can do," she said.

"It is too little too late, nothing will change."

In the Pope's letter, which comes after a Pennsylvania grand jury report published recently in the US found more than 300 priests abused more than 1,000 children, he expressed "shame and repentance".

"We acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realising the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives," he said.

"We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them."

Referring to the US abuse report, the pontiff noted that at least 1,000 survivors were victims of abuse at the hands of priests.

"We have realised that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away," he said.

"The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced.

"But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity."

The Pope also said: "Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient.

"Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.

"The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults."

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