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WORLD | 13-03-2019 16:13

Pope Francis' sixth anniversary as pontiff overshadowed by abuse scandals

New poll shows 37 percent of US Catholics are questioning whether they will remain in the Church in light of the abuse scandal.

Pope Francis marked his sixth anniversary as pontiff today, spending it in prayer as he attended a week-long spiritual retreat with his closest advisers.

Elsewhere in the world, one of his cardinals was sentenced for sex abuse and a new poll found that US Catholics are increasingly questioning their faith because of the sex abuse scandals sweeping the Catholic Church.

In his time as pontiff, Francis has made it a tradition to bring the Vatican leadership with him on retreat at the start of Lent, the period of fasting and prayer leading up to Easter. This year, the spiritual exercises are being led by a Benedictine monk.

According to a report in The Catholic Herald, also attending the retreat outside Rome is the Argentine bishop seen close to Francis, Gustavo Zanchetta, who is currently under investigation for alleged sexual abuse. The Vatican press office said it had no comment on the report.

Francis created a job for Zanchetta at the Vatican's financial administration office after he resigned suddenly as bishop of Orán in 2017.

The Associated Press has reported that the Vatican had received reports starting in 2015 about inappropriate behavior with seminarians.

On Wednesday in Australia, Cardinal George Pell — who in past years attended the retreat as Francis' finance minister — was sentenced to six years in prison for sexually abusing two youths in the 1990s. He plans to appeal.

And in the US, a Gallup poll released Wednesday found that 37 percent of US Catholics are increasingly questioning whether they would remain in the Church in light of the abuse scandal, up from 22 percent in 2002 when the crisis first exploded in the North American country.

The poll found that 58 percent of Catholics had confidence in Francis, about the same as had confidence in the priests in their own congregations. Only 30 percent had confidence in US bishops and other Catholic national leaders, however.

The national telephone poll of 581 Catholic adults was conducted January 21 to February 28, which coincided with Francis' sex abuse summit of church leaders in the Vatican. It had a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points.


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