ROME (CBSNewYork) – A landmark summit on preventing sex abuse by clergy in the Catholic Church is underway with 190 religious leaders at the Vatican.
Attendees are hearing videotaped testimony from victims, reports CBS2’s Seth Doane.
Pope Francis opened the first global summit on stopping clergy sex abuse with a prayer and a plea, urging church leaders to take decisive action against predator priests.
“Listen to the cry of the little ones who want justice,” he said.
On the eve of the summit, the pontiff met with an abuse survivor from Poland who was assaulted by a priest when he was 13 years old.
Victims of abuse are not allowed inside these meetings at the Vatican, but church leaders are watching videotaped testimony from survivors around the world.
Manila Cardinal Luis Tagle said its time for bishops and superiors wake up to the harm caused by clergy abuse and cover-up.
“We humbly and sorrowfully admit that wounds have been inflicted by us bishops on the victims,” said Tagle.
Since 1950, more than 19,000 people have made allegations of abuse by Catholic clergy in the United States alone.
The Vatican’s senior sex crimes investigator, Archibishop Charles Scicluna said church leaders have a sacred duty to protect victims.
“It is important that every allegation is investigated with the help of experts and that the investigation is concluded without unnecessary delay,” said Scicluna.
Vatican officials say the summit will focus on responsibility, accountability, and transparency. Victims are demanding concrete action to put an end to the scandal.