The Catholic church has had a difficult year.

It was a year of revelations of sexual misconduct and cover-ups that rocked the papacy of Pope Francis and caused a crisis of confidence in the Catholic hierarchy.

But the Pope has vowed that the Catholic church will “never again” cover up clerical sexual abuse and demanded that priests who raped and abused children turn themselves in.

The pontiff dedicated his Christmas speech to the Vatican bureaucracy to the theme of abuse.

He acknowledged that the church had not always treated the issue seriously, blaming leaders who out of inexperience or shortsightedness acted “irresponsibly” by refusing to believe victims. But he said the church would never again conceal or dismiss such cases.

“Let it be clear that before these abominations, the church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes,” he said.

Also Read: Catholic Church Will Never Again Ignore Sex Abuse Accusations - Pope Francis

The pope urged victims to come forward, thanked the media for giving them a voice and issued a stark warning to abusers: “Convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice.”

His remarks capped a difficult year for the Catholic church, which began with the pontiff’s botched handling of a sexual abuse scandal in Chile and ended with US state prosecutors uncovering decades of cover-ups, reports the Guardian.

The pope has summoned church leaders from around the world to an abuse prevention summit in February, indicating that he has come to realise the problem is far greater and more widespread than he had understood at the start of his pontificate five years ago.

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