A top Catholic cardinal has admitted that pedophiles were allowed to prey on children after Church files on priests who sexually abused minors were destroyed.
The revelation came as a Vatican summit on a pedophilia crisis that has devastated lives in countries across the globe came to a close on Sunday, with Pope Francis warning victims to lower their expectations.
The meeting was marked by horror stories from abuse victims, some of whom told painful stories of abuse and cover-up when the conference began on Thursday.
One of the victims said she was forced to have three abortions after being abused for years by a priest who beat her, while another said he had been molested more than 100 times.
“Engraved in my eyes, ears, nose, body and soul are all the times he immobilized me, the child, with superhuman strength,” said another woman, who described how she was repeatedly raped aged 11 by a priest.
The ongoing scandals have hit countries around the world, with recent cases affecting Chile, Germany and the US.
German Cardinal Reinhard Marx admitted Saturday that “files that could have documented the terrible deeds and named those responsible were destroyed, or not even created.”
“Instead of the perpetrators, the victims were regulated and silence imposed on them,” he added.
The admission sparked an angry reaction from the international association ECA (Ending Clerical Abuse), which slammed the destruction of such documents “illegal” and called for an investigation.
The Vatican has in the past refused to hand over internal documents about abuse cases to police investigating pedophilia.
The abuse crisis has made 2018 one of the toughest years for the pope since his election in 2013.
As many as 34 bishops in Chile have resigned over the scandal, Ireland has been rocked by decades of abuse and Pennsylvania has revealed that priests sexually abused about 1,000 people over seven decades in that US state alone.
Investigations have revealed that in many cases priests accused of assaulting minors were transferred to other parishes.
“The damage caused is so deep, the pain inflicted is so profound, the consequences of the abuses that have taken place in the Church are so immense that we will never be able to say that we have done all that can be done,” Cardinal Jose Horacio Gomez said.
Pope Francis was set to address the Catholic Church Sunday, a day after he asked members of clergy to look at their actions during a penitential prayer service for sexual abuse victims.
But a Catholic nun said, “This storm will not pass.”
Sister Veronica Openibo, a Nigerian who has worked in Africa, Europe and the US, told bishops to acknowledge the church’s hypocrisy in its handling of the sexual abuse crisis.
“At the present time, we are in a state of crisis and shame. We have seriously clouded the grace of the Christ-mission,” Openibo said.
Scandals have also surrounded the Vatican’s bank accounts. They came to light in 1982 after top Vatican banker Roberto Calvi’s was discovered hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London. Prosecutors believe it was a mafia killing linked to money laundering via the Vatican bank.