The Pope wants to take down the sexual abusers of the church – by backing a #MeToo-like movement for nuns.
Pope Francis said the sexual abuse of nuns by priests is a problem within the church, one he is intent on tackling with the issue being worked on “for some time”.
Speaking on board the papal plane back from the United Arab Emirates, he argued the phenomenon was rooted in society’s mistreatment of women, and that nuns need a safe space to speak out about abusers.
He also said religious congregations had been dissolved as a result of the sexual exploitation of nuns and that Benedict XVI had taken steps to tackle the issue.
But he added tackling the issue has been “blocked” in the past.
When asked about the abuse of nuns by priests he said: “It’s true, it is a problem.
“I dare to say that humanity has not yet matured.
“Women are seen as second class, and it starts from there.
“It is a cultural problem which eventually leads even to the killing of women.
“I think it is still taking place because it’s not as though the moment you become aware of something it goes away.”
The sexual abuse of sisters by priests and others in authority, particularly in Africa and Asia, is becoming increasingly visible in the Church.
He said: “There have been priests and even bishops who have done what you say.
“I think it is still taking place because it’s not as though the moment you become aware of something it goes away.
“The thing continues, and we’ve been working on this for some time.”
He added: “We have suspended a few clerics and sent some away over this.
“And also – and I don’t know whether the trial on this is over – dissolved a few female religious orders which were very much tied to this.”
Speaking to reporters after a two-day visit to Abu Dhabi, Francis stressed that it was Benedict XVI who took the first steps to address the matter.
According to Francis, Benedict had the “courage to dissolve a female congregation” where women had become the victims of “sexual slavery on the part of clerics or the founder,” although he did not give any indication over which order he was referring to.
A Holy See spokesmen later said it concerned a French order of nuns.
The Pope claimed his predecessor had been thwarted in his attempts to handle the congregation saying there were “filters” inside the Church “that would block him”.
On one occasion after calling a meeting, “Joseph Ratzinger went there with the folder and all the papers and when he came back he said to his secretary, put the folder in the archive, the other side won”.
Pope Francis added: “Pray that we can go forward, I want to go forward.”
By Grainne Cuffe and Christopher Lamb