In Brief

Pope Francis: one priest in 50 is a paedophile

Italian journalist says Pope Francis admitted that two per cent of clerics are paedophiles

Pope Francis has said that one in 50 Roman Catholic clerics is a paedophile, according to an Italian journalist.

The claim was published in a report of an hour-long conversation between the Pope and the co-founder of the left-leaning Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Eugenio Scalfari. In the course of the conversation Pope Francis said that he considered the crime "a leprosy in our house".

"Many of my collaborators who fight with me [against paedophilia] reassure me with reliable statistics that say that the level of paedophilia in the Church is at about two per cent," Pope Francis was quoted as saying.

"This data should hearten me but I have to tell you that it does not hearten me at all. In fact, I think that it is very grave," he said.

The Pope promised to confront the problem "with the severity it demands".

If the statistics are correct, the figure cited by the Pope would represent around 8,000 of the world's 414,000 priests, the BBC notes.According to La Repubblica, the Pope admitted that some bishops and cardinals were sexual abusers.

"Among the two per cent who are paedophiles are priests, bishops and cardinals," he reportedly said. "Others, more numerous, know but keep quiet. They punish without giving the reason."

The Catholic Church did not dispute the majority of the article, but Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi denied that Pope Francis had said that there were cardinals who were paedophiles. He also said that the report did not represent the Pope's exact words.

Earlier this month Pope Francis asked victims of child sex abuse for forgiveness at a morning mass in the Vatican. "Before God and his people, I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness," he said.

In March the Pope claimed that no other organisation in the world had "done more" to tackle the problem of child abuse.

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