In Brief

Pope Francis compares abuse by priests to 'satanic mass'

Pontiff to meet with victims of sexual abuse but survivors network describes it as a 'PR gesture'

Pope Francis has compared the sexual abuse of children by priests to performing a "satanic mass".

Speaking to journalists on a plane journey to Rome from the Middle East, the pontiff said that there would be no "daddy's boys" and "no privileges" in investigations into the sex scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church.

"Priests who do this are betraying the Lord," he said, adding that three bishops were currently under investigation for the "ugly crime".

Pope Francis said he will show "zero tolerance" for anyone in the Church who abuses children and announced that he will meet up to eight victims next month at his Vatican residence. They will celebrate mass with him and also meet in private to talk about their ordeals.

The Times says the Pope's comments were "some of his toughest yet", but the US-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said they did not go far enough. "His upcoming and self-serving meeting with victims is more of what we've seen for decades – more gestures, promises, symbolism and public relations," added a spokesman.

BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen also points out that secular people might see paedophilia as much worse than a satanic rite.

"But for a pope to compare crimes carried out by Catholic priests to worshipping the devil counts as strong language," he said. "The Pope is saying what many Catholics who have been horrified by repeated child sex abuse scandals want to hear."

At a UN hearing earlier this year, Vatican officials revealed that 3,420 abuse cases had been handled over the past decade by the Catholic Church’s Canon Law prosecutors.

As a result of these cases, 848 priests were defrocked – expelled from the priesthood. A further 2,572 were ordered to "live a life of prayer or penance".

Bowen adds that the Pope will have to "follow his words with actions if he wants to stop scandals doing any more damage to the Church".

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