Pope Francis admitted Tuesday that the string of sex abuse scandals that have plagued the Catholic Church in recent years has kept people away from the church.
The Associated Press reported that the Pope spoke to a group of young people in Estonia during a four-day trip to Baltic states, in which he directly addressed the sex scandals that have mounted against the church and its leaders. Francis acknowledged that the crisis has made followers less invested in the church.
“They are outraged by sexual and economic scandals that do not meet with clear condemnation, by our unpreparedness to really appreciate the lives and sensibilities of the young, and simply by the passive role we assign them,” he said at the Kaarli Lutheran Church in the Estonian capital of Tallinn.
“We ourselves need to be converted,” he said of church leaders. “We have to realize that in order to stand by your side we need to change many situations that, in the end, put you off.”
The AP reported that a conference of German bishops was set to release a report on Tuesday detailing alleged abuse against 3,677 people between 1946 and 2014. More than half of the victims were 13 or younger, and the report is expected to accuse church officials of failing to act against abusers.
The German report comes roughly a month after a separate grand jury report that detailed alleged sexual abuse by more than 300 priests in Pennsylvania going back decades. The report also accused church leaders of covering up the alleged abuse.
The Pennsylvania report prompted the U.S. conference of Catholic bishops to craft new measures aimed at holding accused priests accountable for sexual misconduct.