Pope Francis began an unprecedented summit in Rome to confront the Catholic Church’s clergy abuse scandal by saying that Catholics are not looking for simple condemnation, but concrete actions.
“In the face of this scourge of sexual abuse perpetrated by men of the church to the detriment of minors, I thought I would summon you,” the Pope told the nearly 200 Catholic leaders gathered in Vatican City, “so that all together we may lend an ear and listen to the Holy Spirit … and to the cry of the small ones who are asking for justice.”
“The holy people of God are looking at us and expect from us not simple condemnations,” Francis continued in his opening address, “but concrete and effective measures to put in place. We need to be concrete.”
For the first time in Catholic history, the almost 200 global church leaders are gathering at the Vatican to address the crisis. The four-day summit, convened by the Pope last September, will include two speeches by Francis, talks outlining best practices, small group discussions among bishops and a penitential ceremony involving abuse survivors.
Pope outlines summit roadmap
The Pope then said that he had made a list of 21 “reflection points” that were handed out to the assembly of church leaders.
Among the points was a proposal to raise the minimum age for marriage to 16 years old. Current canon law in the Catholic Church has the minimum age as 14 for females and 16 for males.
Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, an organizer of the summit in Rome, said that conferences of bishops in individual countries have the power to raise the age, but that the Pope wants to make the change part of universal canon law.
Scicluna, the church’s top sex abuse investigator, called the guidelines a “roadmap for our discussion,” adding that “they are very, very concrete.”