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The Latest: Sex abuse victims speak of lost childhoods

February 23, 2019
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Cardinal Reinhard Marx leaves at the end of a media briefing during a four-day sex abuse summit called by Pope Francis, in Rome, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Pope Francis is hosting a four-day summit on preventing clergy sexual abuse, a high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops around the world that the problem is global and that there are consequences if they cover it up. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Latest on the sex abuse prevention summit at the Vatican (all times local):

7:25 p.m.

A man and a woman who were sexually abused by priests as young people have told Catholic leaders attending Pope Francis’ abuse prevention summit that the trauma they suffered has haunted them ever since.

The man, speaking at a penitential liturgy Saturday night, said sexual abuse is the greatest humility anyone can suffer: He says “you realize you cannot defend yourself against the strength of your oppressor. You cannot escape. You must endure it, no matter how disgusting it is.”

The woman, addressing the summit on Friday night, said she had wanted to tell them about her childhood. But she said: “But there’s no point, because when I was 11 years old, a priest from my parish destroyed my life. Since then I, who loved coloring books and doing somersaults on the grass, have not existed.”

They were not identified to protect their privacy.

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5:15 p.m.

A prominent Mexican journalist has told Catholic leaders at the Vatican’s sex abuse prevention summit that their failure to report abuse and inform the public about predator priests makes them complicit in the crimes.

Valentina Alazraki, Vatican correspondent for Mexico’s Televisa network, urged greater transparency and communication about abuse in the final presentation Saturday at Pope Francis’ summit on abuse.

She told the bishops and religious superiors that journalists are not the enemy, but unless the church hierarchy starts siding with the victims and not the predators, journalists “will be your worst enemies.”

Alazaraki, who began covering the Vatican during the papacy of Pope Paul VI, denounced the “corruption” in the Catholic hierarchy’s cover-up of the 20th-century church’s worst abuse scandal, involving the Mexican founder of the Legion of Christ, the Rev. Marcial Maciel.

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2:10 p.m.

Several dozen Catholics from Italy and abroad have marched through Rome to protest the Vatican’s handling of pedophile priests.

Placards held by abuse survivors and their supporters denounced Vatican “silences,” while other posters call for “Secular justice for all.” Many advocates say the church must let civil authorities investigate and prosecute priests who molest or rape children.

The march Saturday was staged as Pope Francis’ four-day summit was underway to chart abuse prevention strategies.

Abuse by pedophile clergy is just beginning to gain national attention in predominantly Catholic Italy, where priests are heroes in TV sitcoms and parishes run recreational programs for children, since public schools don’t do so.

A young Italian, Alessandro Battaglia, wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with “survivor,” marched as part of his campaign for the Italian church to crack down on pedophile priests.—

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12:30 p.m.

A top German cardinal has called for changes to the Vatican’s legal code of secrecy that is imposed on sex abuse cases and for the publication of statistics about the problem as necessary measures to restore trust from the faithful in the Catholic hierarchy.

German Cardinal Reinhard Marx told Pope Francis’ sex abuse prevention summit Saturday that the church’s failed administration of the problem — including the destruction of files about abusers, the silencing of victims and the disregard for church procedures — had worsened the crisis and was driving the faithful away.

He said the church must redefine confidentiality and secrecy in handling such cases or risk accusations of cover-up and the spread of “conspiracy theories” that the church is trying to hide and shield abusers.

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10:30 a.m.

A prominent Nigerian nun has blasted the culture of silence in the Catholic Church that has long sought to hide clergy sexual abuse, telling a Vatican summit that transparency and an admission of mistakes is needed to restore trust.

In a powerful speech Saturday, Sister Veronica Openibo told Pope Francis’ gathering of the Catholic hierarchy that African and Asian church leaders must no longer justify their silence about sexual violence by claiming that poverty and conflict are more serious issues for the church.

Openibo warned: “This storm will not pass by.”

She called for discussion on a host of controversial issues to address the scandal, including lay participation in the selection of bishops, whether seminaries for young boys are really healthy and why abusers aren’t dismissed from the clergy.

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More AP coverage of clergy sex abuse at https://www.apnews.com/Sexualabusebyclergy