ROME — Pope Francis called the sexual exploitation of children a kind of “psychological murder” and a “cancellation of childhood” in an address to an Italian anti-pedophilia group Saturday.
“The abuses perpetrated against children continue,” the pope said to representatives of the Meter Association, who met with him in the Vatican, in particular, “the solicitations that take place via the internet and various social media, with pages and portals dedicated to child pornography.”
This is a “scourge” that needs to be faced with renewed determination by public institutions, authorities, in collaboration with families and educational agencies, he said.
Francis went on to assert that the protection of children against sexual exploitation is “a duty of all States, called to identify both traffickers and abusers” but also requires “denunciation and prevention” at all levels: school, sporting, recreational and cultural realities, religious communities, and single individuals.
“Even today we see how many times in families the first reaction is to cover up, a first reaction that is present also in other institutions and in the Church,” he said. “We have to struggle against this old habit of covering up.”
“I renew my appreciation and gratitude to the leaders, members, volunteers and those who cooperate with your Association,” the pontiff concluded. “Do not be afraid in the face of misunderstandings and difficulties; there are many, but don’t be afraid.”