Perpetrators of child sexual abuse must be punished, says Pope Francis

(Photo: Reuters)

The Pope has said that perpetrators of child sexual abuse must be punished. 

In a message to clergy in Mexico, Pope Francis suggested that a culture change was needed in the Catholic Church and that he wanted an "apostolate of prevention" to be implemented to prevent minors from being abused. 

He said that prevention was important "because we never know where a child will be abused" and that children in the Church must be protected "so that no one – not a single person – abuse them, that no one might keep them from coming to Jesus."

"Any person – be they a religious, lay person, bishop, or any person – who prevents a child from coming to Jesus must be stopped in his attitudes, corrected if we are in time, or punished if there is a crime involved," he added.

Pope Francis recently changed Church regulations to make it mandatory for clergy to report suspected sexual abuse to superiors, including disclosures made during confessions.

Vos estis lux mundi, "You are the light of the world", was published in May following a meeting of bishops in February to discuss the protection of minors within the Church.

It makes clear that the culture of cover-ups must end and that every cleric, diocese and religious order has an obligation to report abuse.

In the document, the Pope said that suspected abuse must be reported to the Holy See and the "competent civil authorities".

"The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful," the Pope said.

"In order that these phenomena, in all their forms, never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church, so that personal sanctity and moral commitment can contribute to promoting the full credibility of the Gospel message and the effectiveness of the Church's mission."