The Latest: Pope says church judged unfairly on sex abuse

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — The latest on Pope Francis’ visit to the Baltics (all times local):

12:25 a.m.

Pope Francis says it’s unfair to apply contemporary moral standards to the Catholic Church’s history of sex abuse cover-up since everyone covered up the crime in the past.

In comments to reporters returning Tuesday from the Baltics, Francis wasn’t excusing the church’s cover-up, which he said was evidence of the “corruption” that has so scandalized the faithful.

But the pope said it’s unfair to judge the cover-up with today’s standards, in the same way it’s unfair to judge the forced conversion of indigenous peoples during the colonial era or even the past use of the death penalty. He said sex abuse was also covered up at home and elsewhere in society.

Francis says the church had made great strides after realizing it needed to fight the problem.


12:05 a.m.

Pope Francis is acknowledging his landmark deal with China over bishop nominations will create suffering among the Chinese faithful. But he says that he takes full responsibility for the agreement and that he — and not Beijing — will have the ultimate say over naming new bishops.

Francis provided the first details of the weekend agreement during an in-flight news conference coming home from the Baltics on Tuesday. The deal aims to end decades of tensions over bishop nominations that had contributed to dividing the Chinese church.

Francis acknowledged that both sides lost something in the talks, and said members of the underground Chinese church “will suffer” as a result.

But he said he ultimately will name bishops after a period of “dialogue” with Beijing.


11:35 a.m.

Pope Francis has acknowledged that the sex abuse scandals rocking the Catholic Church are driving people away and said the church must change its ways if it wants to keep future generations.

Francis referred directly to the crisis convulsing his papacy on the fourth and final day of his Baltic pilgrimage, which coincided with the release of a devastating new report into decades of sex abuse and cover-up in Germany.

Francis told a gathering of young people in largely secular Estonia Tuesday that he knew many young people felt the church has nothing to offer them and simply doesn’t understand their problems today.

He acknowledged their complaints and said: “We ourselves need to be converted; we have to realize that in order to stand by your side we need to change many situations that, in the end, put you off.”


9:50 a.m.

Pope Francis is wrapping up his pilgrimage to the Baltics with a stop in Estonia, often considered one of the least religious countries in the world.

Francis met Tuesday with President Kersti Kaljulaid upon arriving in the capital Tallinn. Later, he presides over a youth gathering before celebrating Mass in Tallinn’s Freedom Square for a Catholic community that numbers only 6,000 people.

Between a half and two-thirds of Estonia’s 1.3 million people profess no religious affiliation, with the Lutheran and Russian Orthodox churches counting the most followers of those who do.

Estonia is the last stop in Francis’ four-day visit that took him to Lithuania and Latvia. He is aiming to encourage the Christian faith in the Baltics, which saw five decades of Soviet-imposed religious repression and state-sponsored atheism.