Pope urges church to 'listen to cry of young' as he opens landmark Vatican sex abuse prevention summit

21 February 2019, 14:03 | Updated: 21 February 2019, 21:48

Pope Francis has urged the Catholic Church to "listen to the cry of the young, who want justice", as he opened a landmark summit on preventing sex abuse.

More than 30 years since the first abuse scandals erupted within the church, he told 190 leaders of bishops conferences and religious orders that they had an opportunity to "transform this evil into a chance for understanding and purification".

As the four-day summit at the Vatican got underway, he said those who had experienced sex abuse could not be fobbed off with "simple and obvious" condemnations.

"Efficient and concrete measures" needed to be established, he said.

Church leaders heard five videotaped testimonies from people who had been abused.

A woman from Africa said a priest began to rape her when she was 15 and forced her to have three abortions over the following 13 years.

Another victim, from Chile, said the church had caused even more pain by discrediting people's stories and protecting the priests who abused them.

As a child, Colm O'Gorman was abused by a priest.

Commenting on the summit from Dublin, he told Sky News: "The key point here is it's not a matter of the Church developing better systems of accountability within it, it's a matter of the Church and the Vatican in particular preparing to be held accountable for their own crimes and their own cover-ups."

"Until that happens, we're not going to see any change," the survivor added.

Phil Saviano, who helped to expose an abuse scandal in the US, said the Vatican must release the names of abusers and their files.

"Do it to break the code of silence," he said.

"Do it out of respect for the victims of these men, and do it to help prevent these creeps from abusing any more children."

Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the Vatican's senior sex crimes investigator, told bishops they should co-operate with civil investigations and tell communities what had happened once cases were complete.

He also said it was a "grave sin" to withhold information from the Vatican about candidates to become bishops.

That was apparently a reference to the recently-defrocked former American cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

It was said to be an open secret among some in the church that McCarrick slept with young seminarians.

A Vatican trial found credible reports that he abused minors.