Pope Francis urged European bishops on Saturday to listen to survivors of clergy sexual abuse and consider them partners in reform.
In a video message aimed at Central and Eastern European bishops currently gathering in Poland for a four-day child protection conference, the supreme pontiff warned a failure to take victims' views into account could risk the future of the Catholic Church.
In Poland alone, about a dozen current and retired bishops have been sanctioned by the Vatican in recent months for failing to listen to victims, or take action against those who raped and molested them.
“Only by confronting the truth of this cruel behavior and humbly seeking forgiveness from victims and survivors," Francis said, "can the church find the way to once again be considered and trusted as a place of welcome and security for those who need it."
Bishops in particular, he said, must be the first to listen to victims, not the last, and must be at their service “seeing them as companions and protagonists of a common future.”
Many victims have said they were treated as enemies of the church when they reported their abuse, accused of seeking to cause scandal or extort the hierarchy for money.
Francis, and his predecessor Benedict XVI, have denounced what they called the hierarchy's misplaced concern for the church's reputation over the needs of victims.