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Pope Francis leads conference on sex abuse at Vatican

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By Daniel Bellamy  with Reuters
Pope Francis leads conference on sex abuse at Vatican
Copyright  Vatican Media/­Handout via REUTERS

Catholic priests from across the world have been found guilty of sexually abusing both adults and children and the church is accused of trying to cover many of the crimes up.

But on the third day of the Vatican's conference on child abuse on Saturday at least two of the archbishops attending gave out positive messages.

"I don't know if something big will happen at the end of this meeting but things are moving forward. I am very happy," said the Archbishop of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Hollerich.

"I sense that there is a commitment to ensure that our children and vulnerable people are safe and we are also committed to high standards in that and to accountability for those standards," the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, the Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Columba Martin, said.

Many of the victims disagree; they say the Church is not doing enough and some of them told painful stories of abuse and cover-up when the conference began on Thursday. Then on Saturday they rallied in a square in Rome and marched to the Vatican to demand change and justice.

Some 200 senior Church officials were convened by Pope Francis to confront what he has called the scourge of sexual abuse by the clergy.

One of them Sister Veronica Openibo, a Nigerian who has worked in Africa, Europe and the United States, was far from upbeat.

"We proclaim the Ten Commandments and parade ourselves as being the custodians of moral standards and values and good behaviour in society. Hypocrites at times? Yes! Why did we keep silent for so long?" she said.

She told the pope, sitting near her at the conference, that she admired him because he was "humble enough to change your mind," apologise and take action after he initially defended a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse. The bishop later resigned.

"How could the clerical Church have kept silent, covering these atrocities? The silence, the carrying of the secrets in the hearts of the perpetrators, the length of the abuses and the constant transfers of perpetrators are unimaginable," she said.

Our credibility is at stake," she said, adding that the Church's male hierarchy should allow more women to be involved in fight against abuse.

More reports on Saturday suggested that nuns may also also committed sex crimes.

An Australian government report in 2017 found that tens of thousands of children had been abused over many decades.

And a US judicial report in 2018 found that 300 priests had abused over a thousand children.