Vatican tells abuse victims 'the pope is on their side'

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By Alex Johnson  with NBC News U.S. News
Image: Pope Francis
Pope Francis waves to pilgrims from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square during a celebration of the Feast of Assumption at the Vatican on Wednesday.   -   Copyright  Filippo Monteforte AFP - Getty Images

In its first comment since a Pennsylvania grand jury detailed allegations of rampant sexual abuse in parishes across the state for decades, the Vatican on Thursday said it felt "shame and sorrow" and told victims: "The pope is on your side."

The Vatican chose to wait two days to react to the 1,356-page report, which alleged that 301 "predator priests" abused more than 1,000 children in six of the state's eight dioceses. Wednesday was the Feast of the Assumption, an important Catholic celebration and a national holiday in Italy.

"The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible," the Vatican said. "Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith."


The statement said most of the report found "almost no cases after 2002," which it said was "consistent with previous studies showing that Catholic Church reforms in the United States drastically reduced the incidence of clergy child abuse."

But it said the church must still "learn hard lessons from its past," adding: "There should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur."

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