Pope Francis has ordered Catholic bishops around the world to co-operate as a matter of priority with a commission he set up to protect children from sexual abuse by clerics, even if it unearths new scandals, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.
The Pope, who met victims of abuse last year, sent the letter to the bishops and heads of religious institutions a day before the commission was due to hold its first full meeting.
"Everything possible must be done to rid the Church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused," the Pope says in the letter.
"Families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children ... priority must not be given to any other kind of concern, whatever its nature, such as the desire to avoid scandal, since there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors."
One of the members of the commission, Marie Collins of Ireland, herself a victim of sexual abuse, said commission members had asked the Pope for a letter to thwart any resistance from bishops, which she said some members expected.
"Bishops' conferences have various views on abuse, as we know. In my own country, Ireland, there was a great deal of resistance to change, to putting in all the correct, necessary prevention measures and treating survivors in the right way," she said.
"You must pre-empt that. If the commission wants co-operation ... then I think a letter from the Holy Father indicating that they [bishops] should co-operate certainly lends the backing necessary to our work," she said.
Pope tells bishops: your priority is to protect children, not to avoid scandal (The Catholic Herald)