Pope Francis has admitted that nuns were forced into ‘sexual slavery’ by priests and bishops.

Pope Francis has publicly acknowledged the scandal of priests and bishops sexually abusing nuns. Francis, who also said there had been one case where sisters had been reduced to ‘sexual slavery’, vowed to do more to fight the problem.

The pope admitted to the problem for the first time in public during a news conference while returning to Rome from the United Arab Emirates.

“It is true … there have been priests and even bishops who have done this,” said Francis as quoted by Reuters. “I think it is still going on because something does not stop just because you have become aware of it,” he added.

The acknowledgment comes just two weeks before he hosts an unprecedented gathering of bishops to craft a global response to the scandal of priesthood predators who targeted children and the superiors who covered up the crimes.

The BBC reports that it is “thought to be the first time that Pope Francis has acknowledged the sexual abuse of nuns by the clergy”, which the Pope said has been occurring largely in “certain congregations, predominantly new ones and in certain regions more than others”.

Last year The Associated Press published results of an extensive investigation of cases of sexual abuse of nuns by clergy on four continents: Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America. The abuse was reported as “global and pervasive,” and it continued, in part, because nuns feared retaliation for reporting it.

Francis was asked about priests who target adult women – the religious sisters who are the backbone of the Catholic Church’s education, health care and social service ministries around the globe – and whether the Holy See might consider a similar universal approach to combat that issue.

He said: ‘It’s not that everyone does this, but there have been priests and bishops who have. And I think that it’s continuing because it’s not like once you realize it that it stops. It continues. And for some time we’ve been working on it”.

The Pope added: “Should we do something more? Yes. Is there the will? Yes. But it’s a path that we have already begun”.

Francis’ acknowledgment of the problem comes as he prepares to decide the fate of the disgraced American ex-cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, who is accused of abusing minors as well as adult seminarians.

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