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14 May, 2017 17:38

Pope Francis: Vatican had 2,000 sex abuse cases backlog, sluggishness complaints justified

Pope Francis: Vatican had 2,000 sex abuse cases backlog, sluggishness complaints justified

The Vatican had a backlog of 2,000 cases while processing allegations of sex abuse by priests, Pope Francis has said, adding that complaints over the slow pace of the Catholic Church’s inquiries are justified.

The Pope addressed the issue for the first time since March, when abuse survivor, Marie Collins, announced her resignation from the Pope’s abuse advisory commission.

Collins criticized the way abuse cases were handled by the Vatican, saying that she decided to quit because the commission’s work was “hindered and blocked by members of the Curia [the Catholic Church’s governing body].”

Pope Francis talked to reporters on the papal plane on Saturday while returning from Portugal where he canonized siblings, validating the Catholic Church's youngest saints. The brother and sister are believed to have seen the Madonna a hundred years ago and died at the age of 9 and 10 years respectively.

Pope Francis described Collins as “a great woman,” saying that the Irish abuse survivor was “a bit right” in complaining about the sluggishness of the proceedings.

"Marie Collins was right on that point. But we are on the right path, as there were 2,000 cases backlogged," Francis said as cited by AP.

The pope said that he ordered more staff to be added to the congregation to speed up the review process.

There's also ongoing talks to provide more regional assistance to bishops to make sure that cases are properly documented before being submitted to the Vatican, he added.

In April, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who heads the abuse advisory commission, said the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith needed more resources to deal with the heavy caseload.

Pope Francis also dismissed media reports claiming that he gave clemency to pedophile priests as part of his vision of a merciful church. Once a sex abuser among the clergy has had their sentence confirmed by the congregation, “it’s finished,” he clarified. 

READ MORE: Pope’s clemency for pedophile priests under scrutiny following latest scandal

AP reported in February, that the head of the Catholic Church had reduced sanctions against a number of pedophile priests without the Vatican making any public pronouncements on the matter.

AP, citing sources, reported that in one instance, an Italian priest, who had received clemency from the Pope, was later convicted for sex crimes against children by the Italian criminal court and faced another church trial.

READ MORE: Over 4,000 children alleged victims of Catholic Church sex abuse in Australia since 1980 – probe

The Pope, who initially promised a "zero tolerance" for sex abuse, has over the years been criticized for the lack of progress in dealing with the issue by some survivors, their advocates and human right groups.