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Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro hails ‘powerful letter’ from Pope on sex abuse

September 7, 2018

A letter from Pope Francis “to the people of God” offers a powerful message for church leaders in Pennsylvania, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Monday.

Shapiro implored Catholic Church leaders here to follow the pope’s advice and embrace the findings of a recent grand jury report that detailed the sexual abuse of 1,000 children by clergy over the last seven decades and church efforts to cover up the crimes.

In a 2,000-word letter the Vatican released Monday, Francis condemned the sordid priest sexual abuse in six Catholic dioceses, including Greensburg and Pittsburgh, that came to light in the grand jury report. He called for the creation of a new culture in the church that will never again tolerate such abuse and cover-ups.

“The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity,” Francis wrote.

Shapiro previously reached out to the pope when a group of clergy and former clergy attempted to block the release of the report. The pope’s letter shifts the focus of the ongoing discussion to where it belongs -- help for the victims, he said.

“Pope Francis’ powerful letter acknowledges the painful truth that had been hiding in the shadows in churches throughout Pennsylvania and appropriately focuses on the survivors who have suffered for too long,” Shapiro said. “The pope has long been a fighter for the defenseless. As he notes in his letter, actions and sanctions to protect children and hold abusers and those who cover up abuse accountable have been ‘delayed.’”

Following the pope’s lead, Shapiro said he would like to see Catholic leaders in Pennsylvania “cease their denials and deflections and now fully support the grand jury’s recommendations so that survivors have the opportunity to obtain justice and ensure this type of widespread abuse and cover up never happens again.”

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