Pope speech to wrap up landmark summit against child abuse

VATICAN CITY (AFP) – Pope Francis was set to address the Catholic Church yesterday at the close of a landmark Vatican summit on a paedophilia crisis that has devastated lives in countries across the globe.

The 82-year-old has warned victims to lower their expectations, saying that much of the work on tackling abuse would be done post-summit.

But survivors will be watching his speech closely for signs of change within the centuries-old institution.

“We do not have forever, and we dare not fail,” Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President Mark Coleridge said in a homily yesterday ahead of the pope’s speech.

“We have shown too little mercy, and therefore we will receive the same,” he warned his fellow bishops.

The Argentine pontiff kicked off the four-day meeting by calling for “concrete measures” and handing 114 senior bishops a roadmap to shape the debate on how to stop child abuse by priests. This included drawing up mandatory codes of conduct for priests, training people to spot abuse, and informing police.

In a nod to those bishops – particularly from Asia and Africa – who have persisted in denying child abuse is a problem in their countries, he called on all present on Saturday “to look honestly at the situation in our countries and our own actions”.

“A mission stretches before us – a mission demanding not just words but real concrete action. We will do all we can to bring justice and healing to survivors of abuse; we will listen to them, believe them and walk with them,” Coleridge said.

A five-year royal commission in Australia which presented its findings last year detailed thousands of harrowing abuse cases involving Australian churches, orphanages, sporting clubs, youth groups and schools over decades.

He described the historical summit as part of a “Copernican revolution” for the Roman Catholic Church.