Pope Francis, ending a landmark conference on sexual abuse of children by clergy, called yesterday for an "all-out battle" against a crime he said should be "erased from the face of the earth".
The pope promised that guidelines used by national bishops conferences to prevent abuse and punish perpetrators will be reviewed and strengthened. He also said the Church legal definition of minor will be raised from the current age of 14 in order to "expand protection" of young people.
But advocates for victims expressed deep disappointment, saying Francis merely repeated old promises and offered few new concrete proposals.
Francis vowed that the Roman Catholic Church would "spare no effort" to bring abusers to justice and will not cover up or underestimate abuse as he spoke at the end of a Mass in the frescoed Sala Regia of Vatican's Apostolic Palace.
However, Francis dedicated much of the first part of a speech lasting more than half an hour to statistics from the United Nations and other organisations showing that most sexual abuse of children takes place in families.
"We are thus facing a universal problem, tragically present almost everywhere and affecting everyone," he said.
Anne Barrett-Doyle of the US-based clergy abuse tracking group bishopaccountability.org, called it a "stunning letdown" that did not sufficiently address the grief and outrage of the faithful. "As the world's Catholics cry out for concrete change, the Pope instead provides tepid promises, all of which we've heard before," she said in a statement.