Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to Rome Feb. 5, 2019. Also pictured are Msgr. Mauricio Rueda, papal trip planner, and Alessandro Gisotti, interim Vatican spokesman. CNS photo/Paul Haring

‘More must be done’ for abused women religious, Pope says

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  • February 5, 2019

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT – The clerical sex abuse of women religious is a problem in the Church and more must be done about it, said Pope Francis.

“There have been priests and even bishops who have done that,” the Pope said. “And I would guess that it still happens today, because it is not something that ends just because people know about it.

“We have been working on this for a while. We have suspended some priests, sent them away for this, and — I’m not sure if the whole process had been completed — but we also have dissolved a few women’s religious congregations,” newer ones, where corruption and sexual abuse were found.

“Must more be done? Yes,” he said.

The Pope addressed the issue while talking to reporters flying back to Rome with him Feb. 5 from Abu Dhabi. He spent about 35 minutes answering questions, although he insisted on responding first to matters related to the trip. 

The women’s supplement to the Vatican newspaper printed a story in its February issue on the abuse of women religious.

The Pope praised the “courage” of then-Pope Benedict XVI for beginning to tackle the problem. As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger tried to investigate a congregation where women were allegedly being abused, he said, but the investigation was blocked.

Pope Francis did not provide more details, but said that as soon as Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict, he called for the files he had compiled and began again. 

The now-retired Pope, he said, dissolved a congregation “because the slavery of women, including sexual slavery, had become part of it.”

Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, said the dissolved congregation was the Sisters of Israel and St. John. He would not provide information about who initially blocked then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s investigation.

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