For the first time today, the head of Vatican, Pope Francis, has publicly acknowledged that sexual assault and rape are happening inside the Catholic Church.
Vatican city: The Vatican on Wednesday clarified comments by Pope Francis about a case of what he called "sexual slavery" within a French congregation of nuns, saying he was referring to an abuse of power that was reflected in instances of sexual abuse.
The Pope's comments, which came during a news conference aboard the papal plane on a return flight to Rome from the United Arab Emirates, come as the Catholic Church is dealing with sexual abuse scandals on several continents.
The Vatican's own newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, last week said abuse of nuns by priests and bishops at times is "made even worse by the fact that abuse of women brings about procreation and is therefore at the origin of forced abortions and children who aren't recognized by priests".
Recently more nuns, encouraged by the #MeToo movement, have been coming forward to describe abuse at the hands of priests and bishops.
Pope Francis, who canonised Paul VI in October 2018, approved the optional memorial in light of "the petitions and desires of the people of God", said the decree, signed by Cardinal Robert Sarah and Archbishop Arthur Roche, the congregation's prefect and secretary, respectively. "Pray that this goes forward", he said of the Vatican efforts to address abuse. "But it is a path that we have already begun". The pope added the mistreatment of nuns is part of a larger issue of women being treated as "second-class citizens". The Vatican under Pope Benedict XVI ultimately dissolved an offshoot of the congregation.
The pope was responding to a question about clergymen who target adult nuns and what approach the Holy See is considering to eradicate it.
In a statement in November, the International Union of Superiors General (UISG)-an organization that represents female Catholic religious orders around the world-said they stood by the women and men who have reported their abuse.
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".
The Community of St. Jean admitted in 2013 that its late founder had behaved "in ways that went against chastity" with women in the order, according to the French Catholic newspaper La Croix. Over the past year, the Associated Press and other media outlets have reported cases of abused nuns in a number of countries around the world, such as India, Africa, Europe, and South America. "We're working on it", Francis said of ongoing cases of abuse of nuns.