Listen to Today's Edition
Pope Francis will arrive in Portugal’s capital Wednesday to take part in the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day, a visit that comes as the European country is grappling with a recent report about decades of sexual abuse of children by the clergy, Agence France-Presse reported.
The pontiff is expected to meet in private with victims of clergy abuse during the five-day global event, which is predicted to draw up to one million people.
The pope’s visit comes months after an independent commission released a report that found that “at least” 4,815 children were sexually abused by members of Portugal’s Catholic Church since 1950.
The inquiry, based on testimony from more than 500 victims, concluded that Portugal’s Church hierarchy “systematically” tried to hide the abuse. The findings prompted the Church’s leadership to apologize to the victims and acknowledge that the institution’s culture must change.
Although Portugal’s Church has set up another independent commission to support victims and collect new complaints, the clergy remains divided about suspending priests targeted by abuse allegations.
Meanwhile, victims’ groups have said the reforms are coming too slowly, while others lamented that they were not invited to participate in the pope’s meeting.
In recent years, thousands of reports of pedophilia within the Catholic Church have emerged worldwide, posing a challenge for Pope Francis.
In 2018, he acknowledged “grave errors” in handling an abuse scandal in Chile and invited abuse victims who had been previously deliberately discredited to Rome for their forgiveness. In response, he held a summit on clerical abuse and enacted reforms, including reporting obligations for abuse and cover-ups.
Meanwhile, Francis plans to accelerate his reform agenda, emphasizing the need for change and inclusivity in the Church in the 21st century, according to the Associated Press.
The reform includes involving younger clerics in decision-making processes, as well as addressing issues such as LGBTQ Catholics and women’s roles.
The pope envisions a Church centered on love and unity, seeking to make a positive impact on the world’s future.