Pope Francis

Pope Francis' historic letter

An illustration of a dove with a dying plant in its mouth
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Pope Francis released a first-of-its-kind letter today mourning the Catholic Church's "atrocities" and failures to protect children from abusive clergy.

Why it matters: The Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal is global, with victims and coverups from Australia to Chile, Ireland and the United States.

Pope Francis addresses Pennsylvania abuse report in letter to Catholics

Pope Francis
Photo: Massimo Valicchia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pope Francis addressed "the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience" in a letter to Catholics worldwide, condemning the Church's failures in the wake of its ongoing sexual abuse scandal.

"With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them."

The big picture: The pope's letter comes after a shocking Pennsylvania grand jury report released last week detailed systemic, decades-long sexual abuse of minors by hundreds of priests in the state.