Pope Francis has promised justice for victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church after a report faulted his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI.
A long-awaited report on sexual abuse in the Munich diocese criticised Benedict’s handling of several abuse cases when he was archbishop in the 1970s and 1980s.
Francis met with the members of the Vatican office that handles sex abuse cases as scheduled on Friday.
Although the Pope did not refer to the report, he said that the church would continue to address the abuse scandal.
“The church, with God’s help, is carrying out the commitment with firm determination to do justice to the victims of abuse by its members, applying with particular attention and rigour to the canonical legislation envisaged,” Francis told the group.
Francis noted that the Vatican had recently updated its policies to more effectively handle abuse cases.
“This alone cannot be enough to stem the phenomenon, but it is a necessary step to restore justice, to repair the scandal and reform the offender,” he said.
The report in Germany found that Benedict XVI — then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — had mishandled four cases of abusive clergy during his tenure as archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982.
One of the report’s authors said the cardinal’s negligence amounted to misconduct. Until Thursday, only one known case implicating Ratzinger’s Munich tenure had been made public.
Benedict, who provided information to the report’s authors, has expressed his upset and shame about the scandal, according to his longtime secretary.
Prosecutors in Munich said they are now examining 42 cases of possible wrongdoing by church officials arising from the report.
The legacy of Pope Benedict XVI had already been damaged by the global clergy abuse scandal, even though he was responsible for turning around the Vatican’s approach to the issue.
In 2001, he assumed responsibility for processing abuse cases after he realised bishops around the world weren’t punishing abusers but were instead just moving them from parish to parish.
But Benedict had always denied knowing about cases of sexual abuse within the Munich diocese during his time there.
A spokesperson for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the Munich lawyers’ report “clearly and shockingly shows once again the scale of the abuse and the breaches of duty by church dignitaries.”
“The government is calling for a full and transparent investigation by the church,” they added at a regular press conference on Friday.