Pope Francis
Pope Francis.Reuters File

Apparently pained by the constant emergence of cases of paedophilia by members of the clergy across the world — including a recent one where a priest from Kerala was booked for sodomising a 10-year-old boy — Pope Francis has in a letter dated December 28, 2016, and addressed to bishops across the world said the Church, which he refers to as "our Mother," weeps for "minors who were abused sexually by priests."

Unlike the leaders of the Christian faith before him, Pope Francis seems to have taken a bold step in at least recognising that members of the Church are responsible for sexual crimes against children. Activists, however, have been calling for tangible action against such people for years now, and are believed to be disappointed that no such action has come.

What the Pope said

In the letter written on the occasion of the Feast of Holy Innocents and Martyrs, the Pope, after speaking on the millions of children affected by unrest in the Middle East and the rest of the world, has added: "We hear these children and their cries of pain; we also hear the cry of the Church our Mother, who weeps not only for the pain caused to her youngest sons and daughters, but also because she recognizes the sins of some of her members: the sufferings, the experiences and the pain of minors who were abused sexually by priests."

He has also said: "It is a sin that shames us. Persons responsible for the protection of those children destroyed their dignity. We regret this deeply and we beg forgiveness. We join in the pain of the victims and weep for this sin. The sin of what happened, the sin of failing to help, the sin of covering up and denial, the sin of the abuse of power. The Church also weeps bitterly over this sin of her sons and she asks forgiveness."

'Zero tolerance', but is it enough?

The Pope has further added: "Today, as we commemorate the feast of the Holy Innocents, I would like us to renew our complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst. Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated. In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to 'zero tolerance'."

Activists, however, will now be asking why the Pope only called for "complete commitment" in the Church against child sexual abuse, and why he did not take action against those members of the clergy convicted of child sexual abuse. There have for long been calls to at least defrock such people and take strong action that would act as a deterrent for clergymen against such behaviour.