The head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has publicly acknowledged the persistent problem of sexual abuse of nuns by priests.
Pope Francis said Wednesday that his recent trip to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates was a step forward in Catholic-Muslim dialogue and promoting peace among religions.
"It's not that everyone does this, but there have been priests and bishops who have", Francis said, according to The Associated Press.
The papal admission followed a rare outcry last week from the Vatican's women's magazine over the sexual abuse of nuns, which forced them to have abortions or raise children not recognised by their priest fathers.
It said the Vatican received reports of priests abusing nuns in Africa in the 1990s.
Pope Francis first met the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, during a 2017 apostolic visit to Egypt.
Last week a Vatican magazine reported on nuns aborting the children of priests And an investigation by the Associated Press previous year revealed cases of abuse of nuns in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America - cases in which the Vatican had not sufficiently punished offenders or supported victims.
The Pope's acknowledgement came only after he was asked to comment on the situation during a press conference on the flight on Tuesday. "We have suspended some priests because of this", he said, adding the Vatican was in the process of shutting down a female religious order because of sexual abuse and corruption.
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"At the time, the sister only told her provincial superior and her spiritual director, silenced by the Catholic Church's culture of secrecy, her vows of obedience and her own fear, repulsion and shame. With the #MeToo movement going strong, and Francis under pressure for neglecting the victims of child abuse, the nuns' pleas have gained traction".
POGGIOLI: He did not name the order, but a Vatican spokesman said it was the French order Contemplative Sisters of Saint-Jean.
Francis said the problem could be found "anywhere" but was prevalent in "some new congregations and in some regions".
Francis, however, asserted that the Catholic church has been taking measures to combat the abuse of nuns for years. Last year, a Kerala nun alleged that Bishop Franco Mulakkal had raped her 13 times between 2014 and 2016.
The official, the Reverend Hermann Geissler, chief of staff in the Vatican's doctrinal office, denied the allegation, the Vatican said. They said that if they receive a report of abuse they will help the person bring the complaint "to the appropriate organizations".
POPE FRANCIS: (Through interpreter) I dare say that humanity has not yet matured.
More than half a million nuns are represented by the group around the world.