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Pope responds to sex abuse cases

The pope has issued guidelines requiring bishops to report sexual misconduct to the Vatican
The pope has issued guidelines requiring bishops to report sexual misconduct to the Vatican  

By CNN's Rome Bureau Chief Alessio Vinci

VATICAN CITY, Italy (CNN) -- Pope John Paul II has sent a 22-page letter to priests around the world in which he briefly alludes to the current sexual abuse scandals plaguing the Catholic Church, many in the United States.

The letter, released on Thursday, is not a direct response to the scandals, but is part of an annual paper the pope writes in preparation for the Easter Holy week -- this year entitled "The letter of the Holy Father, John Paul II to the priests for the Holy Thursday 2002."

At the end of the letter, the pope writes: "At this time we are personally and profoundly afflicted of the sins of some of our brothers who have betrayed the grace of ordination in succumbing even to the most grievous forms of the mysterium inequitatis (the mystery of evil) at work in the world.

"Great scandal is caused as a result that a dark shadow of suspicion is cast over all the other fine priests who perform their ministry with honesty and integrity and often with heroic self sacrifice."

The letter continues: "As the church shows concern for the victims and strives to respond in truth and justice to these painful situations, all of us conscious of human weakness, but trusting in the healing power of the divine grace, are called to embrace the mysterium crucis (mystery of the cross or of faith) and commit ourselves more fully to the search of holiness."

The Holy See: The Pope's Letter 
A lawsuit using federal anti-racketeering law has been filed against three U.S. Catholic diocese, CNN's Dave Mattingly reports (March 22)

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Lawsuits alleging sex abuse will cost the Catholic Church a lot of money. Jason Carroll (March 20)

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Problem of priests accused of sexual misconduct is hotly debated in the Vatican. CNN's Alessio Vinci reports (March 19)

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More news  from our European edition

By this, as well as saying that he is concerned about the growing scandals of sexual abuse, the pope is calling on the outside not to generalise and cast the whole Catholic Church in a negative light.

In a news conference on Thursday, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos -- responsible for communications between the Vatican and Catholic clergy around world -- read a two-page statement reiterating the church's position condemning paedophilia.

Hoyos also expressed its deepest concern, but also said it was important to put the matter in some perspective.

In the United States, reports of priests who have molested children have mounted and the church has paid out millions of dollars to settle many of the cases.

On Monday, the FBI announced that two priests were among more than 40 people arrested as part of major investigation into child pornography on the Internet.

Last week, the Vatican accepted the resignation of a U.S. bishop in Florida who offered to step down after admitting to molesting a teenage boy more than 25 years ago.

And in Massachusetts, 86 plaintiffs are suing the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston over sex abuse allegations against John Geoghan, a defrocked priest convicted last month on charges of fondling a 10-year-old boy a decade ago.

The problem is not confined to the United States. There are two cases against Catholic clergymen in France and Poland, according to the National Catholic Reporter.


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