Pope says youth ‘outraged’ by clergy sex scandals

Pope Francis on Tuesday admitted the clerical sex abuse scandals have put off some young people who believe the Catholic Church has not expressed enough condemnation.

Pope says youth 'outraged' by clergy sex scandals
Pope Francis holds a mass in Estonia on the third day of his Baltic tour. Janek Skarzynski / AFP

“We know – and you have told us – that many young people do not turn to us for anything because they don't feel we have anything meaningful to say to them,” the pontiff said during a visit to Estonia. 

“They are outraged by sexual and economic scandals that are not met with clear condemnation,” he added on his last day of a tour of the three Baltic countries. 

Speaking to young Estonian Christians at a Lutheran church in Tallinn, the pope said many youths find the Church's presence “bothersome or even irritating”. 

“We ourselves need to be converted. We have to realise that in order to stand by your side we need to change many situations that, in the end, put you off,” he added. 

The Catholic Church has been rocked by a fresh wave of devastating claims of sexual abuse committed by clergy across the globe. 

Scandals in Australia, Europe, and North and South America have involved widespread claims of abuse — and cover-ups — by clergymen and lay members with one Vatican archbishop describing it as the church's “own 9/11”.

Germany's Catholic Church on Tuesday released a damning report showing that in Germany alone, almost 3,700 minors were assaulted between 1946 and 2014.

READ ALSO: Pope Francis silent on claim he ignored abuse

'Love is not dead'

The pope himself has yet to respond to cover-up allegations levelled against him. 

Italian Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano has claimed the pontiff ignored abuse allegations against prominent US cardinal Theodore McCarrick for five years.

The now 88-year-old cardinal was accused of sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy half a century ago, a charge he denies.

But in an unprecedented move, Francis accepted his resignation as a cardinal in July.

In an interview broadcast Tuesday, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite came to the defence of the pope, whom she welcomed to her majority-Catholic Baltic country over the weekend.

Without naming sexual abuse scandals, Grybauskaite told public radio LRT that the pontiff carries a “huge cross for all those who made mistakes that need to be corrected”.

“This pope is not afraid to do that. He is not afraid to talk about that but he sees a huge resistance inside and outside the church. It is not easy for him.”

Ahead of his Baltic tour, the pope accepted the resignations of two more bishops from Chile, which is investigating more than 100 cases of sexual abuse by the clergy. 

On Tuesday, the pontiff tried to reassure Estonia's young Christians. 

“Love is not dead,” he said, rebutting the lyrics of a popular local song. 

READ ALSO: Protestant Latvia welcomes pope

Resistant to religion

The pope was notably responding to the story of Lisbel, an 18-year-old Lutheran who spoke of finding comfort in religion after growing up with an unloving alcoholic father.

Many young people “see that their parents no longer love one another, that the love of newlyweds soon fades,” he said. 

“They see a lack of love in the fact that nobody cares that they have to migrate to look for work.”

Adeele, an 18-year-old Lutheran, said she was “grateful” to the pope for the visit, adding that “he creates an atmosphere of understanding and respect”.

Like the country as a whole, many of the young people in attendance said they are not religious. 

Thirteen-year-old Linda Pajula for example told AFP that she came to the meeting because “it seemed like a fun experience”.

She said the pope's speech “might have been difficult for me, but I did understand most things.”

An EU and NATO member, Estonia is a small Baltic country where a quarter of the population is ethnic Russian. 

Sixteen percent of the population is Orthodox, 10 percent is Lutheran and only 6,000 residents are Catholics. 

The majority of Estonians say they are resistant to religion. 

READ ALSO: Pope to honour Baltic martyrs amid abuse crisis


Pope Francis meets Viktor Orban in worldview clash

Pope Francis met with the anti-migration Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban behind closed doors on Sunday at the start of a brief visit to Budapest where he will also celebrate a mass. 

Pope Francis meets Viktor Orban in worldview clash
The Pope embarked on September 12 on his 34th international trip for a one-day visit to Hungary for an international Catholic event and a meeting with the country's populist leader, and a three-day visit to Slovakia. Photo: Tiziana FABI / AFP

The head of 1.3 billion Catholics — in Hungary to close the International Eucharistic Congress — met Orban, accompanied by Hungarian President Janos Ader, in Budapest’s grand Fine Arts Museum.

The Vatican television channel showed the pope entering the museum, but did not show images of the two men meeting, but Orban posted a photo of the two shaking hands on his Facebook page.

On one hand, Orban is a self-styled defender of “Christian Europe” from migration. On the other, Pope Francis urges help for the marginalised and those of all religions fleeing war and poverty.

But the pope’s approach to meet those who don’t share his worldview, eminently Christian according to the pontiff, has often been met with incomprehension among the faithful, particularly within the ranks of traditionalist Catholics.

Over the last few years, there has been no love lost between Orban supporters in Hungary and the leader of the Catholic world.

Pro-Orban media and political figures have launched barbs at the pontiff calling him “anti-Christian” for his pro-refugee sentiments, and the “Soros Pope”, a reference to the Hungarian-born liberal US billionaire George Soros, a right-wing bete-noire.

‘Not here for politics’

From early Sunday, groups of pilgrims from around the country, some carrying signs with their hometowns written on them, were filing under tight security toward the vast Heroes’ Square in Budapest, where the pontiff will say mass to close the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress.

“We are not here for any politics, but to see and hear the pope, the head of the Church. We can hardly wait to see him. It is wonderful that he is visiting Budapest,” Eva Mandoki, 82, from Eger, some 110 kilometres (70 miles) east of the capital, told AFP.

Eyebrows have also been raised over the pontiff’s whirlwind visit.

His seven-hour-long stay in 9.8-million-population Hungary will be followed immediately by an official visit to smaller neighbour Slovakia of more than two days.

“Pope Francis wants to humiliate Hungary by only staying a few hours,” said a pro-Orban television pundit.

Born Jorge Bergoglio to a family of Italian emigrants to Argentina, the pope regularly reminds “old Europe” of its past, built on waves of new arrivals.

And without ever naming political leaders he castigates “sovereigntists” who turn their backs on refugees with what he has called “speeches that resemble those of Hitler in 1934”.

In April 2016, the pope said “We are all migrants!” on the Greek island of Lesbos, gateway to Europe, bringing on board his plane three Syrian Muslim families whose homes had been bombed.

‘Hungary Helps’

In contrast, Orban’s signature crusade against migration has included border fences and detention camps for asylum-seekers and provoked growing ire in Brussels.

Orban’s supporters point instead to state-funded aid agency “Hungary Helps” which works to rebuild churches and schools in war-torn Syria, and sends doctors to Africa.

Orban’s critics, however, accuse him of using Christianity as a shield to deflect criticism and a sword to attack opponents while targeting vulnerable minorities like migrants.

Days before the pope’s arrival posters appeared on the streets of the Hungarian capital — where the city council is controlled by the anti-Orban opposition — reading “Budapest welcomes the Holy Father” and showing his quotes including pleas for solidarity and tolerance towards minorities.

During the pope’s stay in Budapest he will also meet the country’s bishops, and representatives of various Christian congregations, as well as leaders of the 100,000-strong Hungarian Jewish community, the largest in Central Europe.

Orban — who is of Calvinist Protestant background — and his wife — who is a Catholic — are to attend the mass later Sunday.

Around 75,000 people have registered to attend the event, with screens and