Vatican City: The Vatican spokesman said Saturday that the Catholic Church is capable of healing the wounds inflicted on it by the clerical sex abuse scandal, but that the time had come for "truth, transparency and credibility."
The Vatican is moving to get rid of bishops tainted by the scandal — either those directly responsible of abusing children or ones who had sought to shield abusive priests.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi said a recent meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and abuse victims in Malta brought the victims new hope. He said the meeting had been held in the context of a living, dynamic church that is "capable of recognizing its wounds sincerely but also of obtaining the grace of healing."
"We needed this message," Lombardi told Vatican Radio.
Several bishops have resigned amid the abuse scandal recently — a development that appeared to be part of the new Vatican strategy.
In the past few days alone, Benedict accepted the resignation of an Irish bishop who acknowledged failing to report abuse to police, while Belgium`s longest-serving bishop resigned, expressing sorrow for having sexually abused a young boy both as a priest and after becoming a bishop in 1984.
Two more Irish bishops have offered to resign and the pope is expected to agree. There are also mounting calls for the country`s top prelate, Cardinal Sean Brady, to leave because of his handling of the case of a notorious child rapist.
"The time has come for truth, transparency and credibility," Lombardi said in separate comments reported by the ANSA news agency. "The situation we are going through is extremely demanding and it requires us to be absolutely truthful and credible."
Lombardi, who was speaking at a meeting organized by the Italian Bishops` Conference, also called for "rigor and the refusal of any hypocrisy," according to ANSA.
Hundreds of people have reported cases of abuse by priests at schools, orphanages and other church-run institutions. Victims say bishops and other church higher-ups covered up the crimes, choosing to protect the church rather than children.
The scandal has swept across Europe, including in Benedict`s native Germany, and elsewhere.
This week, the Vatican has said it would do everything in its power to bring justice to abusive priests and implement "effective measures" to protect children.
Benedict himself recounted his tearful meeting with Maltese victims, and promised action to confront the scandal. Neither Benedict nor the Vatican has elaborated on what action or measures are being considered.
The Vatican recently published guidelines instructing bishops to report abuse to police when civil laws require it. The Vatican insists that has long been church policy, though it was never before explicitly written.