Pope says he is committed to stopping sexual abuse of nuns

By Philip Pullella

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Pope Francis, whose papacy has been marked by efforts to quell a global crisis over sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy, said on Tuesday he was committed to stopping the abuse of nuns by priests and bishops, some of whom had used the women as sex slaves.

Francis made his comments on the plane returning from Abu Dhabi in response to a reporter's question about an article last week in a Vatican monthly magazine about the abuse of nuns in the Catholic Church.

Recently more nuns, encouraged by the #MeToo movement, have been coming forward to describe abuse at the hands of priests and bishops. Last year, the International Union of Superiors General, which represents more than 500,000 Catholic nuns, urged their members to report abuse.

"It is true ... there have been priests and even bishops who have done this. I think it is still going on because something does not stop just because you have become aware of it," Francis said.

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Investigation into Pennsylvania's Catholic church reveals sex abuse scandal and coverup
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: Parishioners worship during a mass to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Victims of clergy sexual abuse, or their family members react as Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. A Pennsylvania grand jury says its investigation of clergy sexual abuse identified more than 1,000 child victims. The grand jury report released Tuesday says that number comes from records in six Roman Catholic dioceses. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Storm clouds pass over a Roman Catholic church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Cohn
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. A Pennsylvania grand jury says its investigation of clergy sexual abuse identified more than 1,000 child victims. The grand jury report released Tuesday says that number comes from records in six Roman Catholic dioceses. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
FILE – In this June 30, 2015, file photo, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, speaks while outlining the schedule for Pope Francis' September 2015 visit to Washington, during a news conference at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. Wuerl wrote to priests to defend himself on the eve of the scheduled Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, release of a grand jury report investigating child sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania's Roman Catholic dioceses. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: Father Kris Stubna walks to the sanctuary following a mass to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Robert Mizic, 47, watches a press conference on the grand jury report investigating sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania at his home on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, in Turtle Creek, Pa. Mizic says he was abused by his parish priest at a Catholic Church in suburban Philadelphia 35 years ago. (Andrew Rush/Post-Gazette via AP)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Judy Deaven who says her son was a victim of sexual abuse by a priest as a boy reacts as Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. A Pennsylvania grand jury says its investigation of clergy sexual abuse identified more than 1,000 child victims. The grand jury report released Tuesday says that number comes from records in six Roman Catholic dioceses. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: Parishioners worship during a mass to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Former priest James Faluszczak, who says he was molested by a priest as a teenager, reacts as Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. A Pennsylvania grand jury says its investigation of clergy sexual abuse identified more than 1,000 child victims. The grand jury report released Tuesday says that number comes from records in six Roman Catholic dioceses. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: Father Kris Stubna speaks to parishioners during a mass to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
In this Dec. 12, 2010, photo, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, greets a woman after giving a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh. A landmark grand jury report released Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, faulted Wuerl, the former longtime bishop of Pittsburgh who now leads the Washington archdiocese, for what it said was his part in the concealment of clergy sexual abuse. Wuerl, one of the highest-profile cardinals in the United States, released a statement Tuesday that said he had "acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse." (Rebecca Droke/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: Parishioners leave St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: Parishioners worship during a mass to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
FILE – In this Sept. 23, 2015, file photo, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, left, looks toward the crowd with Pope Francis following a Mass outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Wuerl wrote to priests to defend himself on the eve of the scheduled Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, release of a grand jury report investigating child sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania's Roman Catholic dioceses. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: Parishioners leave St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 15: Parishioners worship during a mass to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St Paul Cathedral, the mother church of the Pittsburgh Diocese on August 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Diocese was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests the day before on August 14, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. A Pennsylvania grand jury says its investigation of clergy sexual abuse identified more than 1,000 child victims. The grand jury report released Tuesday says that number comes from records in six Roman Catholic dioceses. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, at podium, speaks during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. A Pennsylvania grand jury says its investigation of clergy sexual abuse identified more than 1,000 child victims. The grand jury report released Tuesday says that number comes from records in six Roman Catholic dioceses. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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"We have been working on this for a long time. We have suspended some priests because of this," he said, adding that the Vatican was in the process of shutting down a female religious order because of sexual abuse and corruption. He did not name it.

"I can't say 'this does not happen in my house.' It is true. Do we have to do more? Yes. Are we willing? Yes," he said.

Francis said former Pope Benedict dissolved a religious order of women shortly after his election as pontiff in 2005 "because slavery had become part of it (the religious order), even sexual slavery on the part of priests and the founder."

He did not name the group but Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said it was a French order.

Before he became pope, Benedict was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican department that investigates sexual abuse. The pope at the time was John Paul.

Then-cardinal Ratzinger wanted to investigate the religious order where women were being abused but he was blocked, Francis said, without saying who prevented the probe.

After he became pope, Ratzinger reopened the investigation and dissolved the order, Francis said.

Pope Francis has summoned key bishops from around the world to a summit later this month at the Vatican to find a unified response on how to protect children from sexual abuse by clergy.

Asked if there would be some kind of similar action to confront abuse of nuns in the Church, he said: "I want to move forward. We are working on it." (Reporting by Philip Pullella Editing by Frances Kerry)

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