Pope Francis has urged leaders of the Catholic Church in Latin America to "prioritise" the fight against sexual abuse so that victims get justice through "clear and accessible channels.”
In a message sent to mark the opening of a Latin American Congress in Paraguay dedicated to the issue of sexual abuse by clergy members, the Argentine pontiff acknowledged that abuses and their “mishandling" represented a "clear danger" for the Church.
"Sexual abuse by the clergy and its cover-up by bishops and religious superiors has left an indelible wound in the body of Christ, the church, because of the harm caused to so many people," he wrote.
"Anyone who diminishes the impact of this story and minimises the present danger dishonours those who have suffered so much and deceives those they claim to serve," added Francis.
In his message, the pope warned Latin American religious leaders not to let a "lack of resources" serve as an impediment to promoting adequate prevention measures.
"The cruel inequalities that affect our societies must not be allowed to affect our Church," he stressed.
The Argentine pontiff, who recently celebrated 10 years leading the Catholic Church, recalled that many “have done much to confront this evil and prevent it from recurring" and urged them to organise "more events of this kind" because they serve to "listen, reflect and help.”
"We must be able to see the result that minors are safer in our Church," he declared.
Francis also explained that a Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has been charged with "monitoring and verifying the adequacy of sound policies and practices throughout the Church," as well as producing a report on abuses.
From Chile to Mexico, Latin America has been hit hard by the sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by priests and religious within the Catholic Church.
A 2019 study on pederasty in the Latin American Church by the British NGO Child Rights International Network (CRIN) indicated that more than 1,000 allegations in four countries – Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Colombia – had begun to break the silence about abuses on the continent.
The report, the first global report on the phenomenon in the 18 Spanish-speaking countries of the continent plus Brazil, unveiled a special email address for victims to tell their stories. It is expected that a new wave of denunciations could emerge, following on from scandals in the United States, Europe and Oceania.
No branch of the church in Latin America has so far produced an official report on the cases, as has been done in Europe and Canada.