Pope Francis has promised concrete action to tackle child sex abuse at the end of a Roman Catholic Church summit on paedophilia.
Clergy guilty of abuse were “tools of Satan”, the Pope said, pledging to face every case with “utmost seriousness”.
Child sex abuse, he said, reminded him of the ancient religious practice of child sacrifice in pagan rites.
“I am reminded of the cruel religious practice, once widespread in certain cultures,” he said.
In the coming weeks, the Vatican is expected to release a roadmap for handling clerical abuse allegations based on the experiences of those who have contributed to the meeting.
What else did the Pope say?
He said victims would now be the priority, and that bishops would be issued with new, clear guidelines that would force them to take action.
The pontiff also promised an end to cover-ups, and said all abusers would be brought to justice.
“No explanations suffice for these abuses involving children,” he said.
“The echo of the silent cry of the little ones who, instead of finding in them fathers and spiritual guides encountered tormentors, will shake hearts dulled by hypocrisy and by power.
“It is our duty to pay close heed to this silent, choked cry,” he added.
How much pressure is the Pope under?
When he was elected in 2013, he called for “decisive action” on the issue, but critics say he has not done enough to hold to account bishops who allegedly covered up abuse.
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Thousands of people are thought to have been abused by priests over many decades, and the Church has been accused of covering up crimes around the world.
Survivors say new safeguarding protocols are needed to protect minors.
The unprecedented conference – called Protection of Minors in the Church – was attended by the heads of all national bishops’ conferences from more than 130 countries.
Pope Francis is under serious pressure to provide leadership and generate workable solutions to what is the most pressing crisis facing the modern Church – one which some say has left its moral authority in tatters.