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Pope Francis: Catholic church has zero tolerance for paedophile priests
Pope Francis has announced his first meeting with a group of sexual abuse victims at the Vatican, declaring that any priests
involved in molesting children had performed the equivalent of "a satanic mass".
"We must go ahead with zero tolerance," the pope said, adding that three bishops were currently under investigation.
"Sexual abuse is such an ugly crime ... because a priest who does this betrays the body of the Lord. It is like a satanic Mass,"
said Francis in some of the toughest language he has used on a crisis that has rocked the Church for more than a decade.
Francis said he would meet with eight victims and Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley of Boston, who is the head of a commission set up
to study ways of dealing with sexual abuse cases in the Catholic church.
Speaking to reporters for nearly an hour on the plane taking him back from a visit to the Middle East, the pope it would not be a
mediation but a prayer meeting that he hoped could encourage the stalled peace process.
Francis said the victims, several from Europe, would attend his morning mass next month and then he would meet with them.
It will be his first meeting with sexual abuse victims since his election in March 2013.
O'Malley said last month in Rome that the commission he heads will recommend that negligent clerics be held accountable regardless
of their rank in the church.
In many cases of abuse, most of which took place decades ago but surfaced in the past 15 years or so, bishops seeking to protect
the cChurch's reputation moved priests from parish to parish instead of defrocking them or handing them over to police.
Victims' groups have pressed the Vatican to hold bishops who either shielded abusers or were negligent in protecting children to
account, along with abusers themselves.
In February the UN committee on the rights of the child accused the Vatican of systematically turning a blind eye to decades of
abuse and attempting to cover up sex crimes. The Vatican called the report unfair and ideologically slanted.
The pope said he believed Roman Catholic priests should be celibate but the rule was not an unchangeable dogma and "the door is
always open" to change. It is something he said before his election but marks the first time he has repeated the remark as pope.
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