WILKES-BARRE — Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has sent a letter to Pope Francis concerning the AGs office’s investigation into child sexual abuse in six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania.
“Yesterday, I wrote to Pope Francis regarding the Office of Attorney General’s comprehensive investigation into sexual abuse of children within the Catholic Church and its cover up by church leaders,” Shapiro said. “I have appreciated the Pope’s public remarks and expressions of sorrow and remorse to victims of this abuse. He has stated that clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they fail to protect children, and I admire that step.”
Shapiro said it is his sincere hope Pope Francis encourages other church leaders “to heed his words and abandon their destructive efforts to silence survivors.”
In an Associated Press story, Pennsylvania’s top prosecutor claimed at least two leaders of the Catholic Church are trying to block the release of a grand jury report alleging child sexual abuse in six of the state’s dioceses.
In his letter to the pope, Shapiro said anonymous petitioners had filed court actions to stop the release of the report that details the abuse and cover-ups by church officials. The state Supreme Court has put the report on hold.
Shapiro is also asking the pope to direct church officials to withdraw their objections.
The Vatican didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the letter, the AP story said.
In his letter to Pope Francis, Shapiro recalled the pope’s visit to Philadelphia in September, 2015, for the World Meeting of Families. Shapiro said the pope met with a group of survivors of sexual abuse.
“According to official Vatican records, in that meeting you expressed sorrow, sadness and apologies to the victims and stated you were ‘profoundly sorry that your innocence was violated by those who you trusted,’” Shapiro wrote.
Shapiro wrote that the pope expressed remorse that the Church failed to hear and believe them and said, “The Holy Father hears and believes you.” Shapiro said Pope Francis pledged to “follow the path of truth wherever it may lead and that clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children.”
Shapiro wrote that he was moved by the pope’s words, his compassion and his commitment.
Shapiro went on to write that the clergy leading the church in Pennsylvania “failed to heed your words.” He asked Pope Francis to direct church leaders to abandon “their destructive efforts to silence survivors” and to follow “the path of truth” that the pope laid out and permit the healing process to begin.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.