By Sarah Mac Donald - 12 April, 2014
Addressing the members of the International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE), the Pontiff pledged tough sanctions against abusive priests.
“We will not take one step backwards in dealing with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed,” the Pope assured.
He said, “I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children.”
“The Church is aware of this damage. It is their own personal and moral damage, but they are men of the Church.”
“On the contrary, I believe that we must be even stronger. You do not interfere with children.”
Elsewhere in his address, Pope Francis said it was important to implement projects against forced labour, against the recruitment of child soldiers, and against every type of violence against minors.
Affirming the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage, the Pontiff said it was necessary to emphasise the right of children to grow up within a family, with a father and a mother able to create a suitable environment for their development and emotional maturity.
He lent his support for parents’ right to moral and religious education for their children and warned against educational experimentation on children.
“One does not experiment on children and young people. They are not guinea pigs!”
He added, “The horrors of the manipulation of education that we have experienced in the great genocidal dictatorships of the twentieth century have not disappeared; they have retained current relevance in various guises and in proposals that, under the pretext of modernity, compel children and the young to take the dictatorial path of ‘unitary thought’”, he said.
The International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE), instituted following Pope Pius XII’s appeal for the defence of children following the Second World War.
Since then, the organisation, “born of the maternity of the Church”, as Pope Francis remarked, has been committed to promoting the defence of the rights of children, also contributing to the 1989 United Nations Convention and working in constant collaboration with the Holy See in New York, Strasbourg and above all in Geneva.