This year was nothing short of a reckoning for the Catholic church.
Thousands of sexual abuse allegations surfaced against priests and religious leaders worldwide. Pope Francis addressed the scourge in a major year-end message to cardinals Friday, and had an especially harsh message for abusers.
"To those who abuse minors I would say this: Convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice," Francis said on Friday, per The Washington Post. These "sins and crimes of consecrated persons are further tainted by infidelity and shame," Francis added, and they "disfigure the countenance of the Church and undermine her credibility." Francis also admitted the Vatican had made serious mistakes in handling abuse cases throughout its history, and thanked the "honest and objective" media for exposing these wrongdoings, NPR reports.
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Looking to the future, Francis mentioned the importance of an upcoming February "abuse prevention summit," USA Today says. Francis also said the church would "never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case," despite dozens of bishops and leaders doing so in the past.
Throughout the still-ongoing scandal, Catholics and non-Catholics alike have grown disenchanted with the church. But Francis promised Friday the church would become stronger once it addressed these wrongs, saying it was time to "lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light."
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