Pope Francis thanks the Madonna after UAE visit

Geraldine Edwards
February 10, 2019

It was the pope's first-ever public acknowledgment of the problem of priests and bishops sexually abusing nuns.

The pontiff's comments on Tuesday to reporters on his return from the United Arab Emirates to the Vatican after a historic trip to the largely Muslim country were the first time he has addressed the issue of sexual abuse against nuns by priests, calling the attacks a larger "cultural problem". We'll shed light on the newest scandal for the Catholic Church.

But many Catholics say abuse of vulnerable adults, including nuns and seminarians, has always been a problem in the church.

Having considered the holiness of St Paul VI and the influence of his ministry for the Church worldwide, Pope Francis has approved putting the saint on the Church's universal calendar of feast days as an optional - not obligatory - memorial.

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The journey to the UAE "wrote a new page in the history of dialogue between Christianity and Islam", Pope said, affirming that the visit underlined the commitment to "promote peace in the world on the basis of human fraternity". His acknowledgment comes just two weeks before he hosts a global gathering of bishops in response to the scandals surrounding child sex abuse by priests and the church's decades-long cover-up of it.

The UISG asked for any woman who has suffered abuse to report it to the leader of her congregation.

Francis went on to say that his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, had taken action against what he called the "sexual slavery" of nuns practiced by a priest who had founded a France-based order.

The issue hit the headlines a year ago after a nun accused an Indian bishop of repeatedly raping her in a case that triggered rare dissent within the country's Catholic church. The thing goes forward like this.

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POGGIOLI: Last November, the International Union of Superiors General, the organization that represents the world's female Catholic religious orders, urged sisters to report abuse - publicly denouncing the culture of silence and secrecy that prevented nuns from speaking out.

Francis's admission of the problem was "the umpteenth blow to the church's image, but also an occasion to show that change really is underway", Scaraffia said.

Francis said Benedict acted "because a certain slavery of women had crept in, slavery to the point of sexual slavery on the part of clergy or the founder". "With the #MeToo movement going strong, and Francis under pressure for neglecting the victims of child abuse, the nuns' pleas have gained traction".

One of the most recent cases to gain the media's spotlight was that of a nun in India, who accused a bishop of repeatedly raping her.

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She said the issue was abusive power relationships, with clerics controlling everything from nuns' vocations to their salaries.

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