Women vent their anger at the conference on the abuse of children in the Vatican

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – A nun and female journalist pronounced the most severe criticism of Church leaders hitherto heard at the conference on the sexual abuse of Pope Francis, accusing them of hypocrisy and covering horrendous crimes against the children.

About 200 senior church officials, with the exception of ten men, sometimes listened in a stunned silence in a Vatican audience hall while the women read their frank and sometimes angry speeches on the penultimate day of the conference convened by the Pope to confront a scandalous world.

Sister Veronica Openibo, a Nigerian who worked in Africa, Europe and the United States, spoke softly but gave a strong message, telling the prelates that they sat in front of her: "This storm will not pass".

"We proclaim the Ten Commandments and consider ourselves to be custodians of moral standards, values ​​and good behavior in society Hypocrites sometimes? Yes! Why have we been silent for so long?" He said.

He told the Pope, sitting next to her on the stage, admiring him because he was "humble enough to change his mind," he apologizes and acts after initially defending a Chilean bishop accused of concealing abuses. The bishop later resigned.

"How could the clerical Church have kept silent, covering these atrocities?" Silence, bringing the secrets into the hearts of the authors, the duration of the abuses and the constant transfer of executioners are unimaginable, "he said.

He spoke of his shock when he saw the 2015 Oscar-winning film Spotlight, which shows how Church leaders in Boston moved predatory priests from parish to parish instead of breaking them up or handing them over to civil authorities.

"We must recognize that our mediocrity, hypocrisy and self-satisfaction have brought us to this shameful and scandalous place in which we find ourselves as a Church, we stop to pray, Lord have mercy on us!" Openibo said.

"JOURNALISTS WILL BE YOUR WORST"

Valentina Alazraki, 64, a Mexican television journalist who, having covered five papates, is the dean of the Vatican press, told the bishops that she was talking as a woman, mother and journalist.

Pope Francis attends the four-day meeting on the global crisis of sexual abuse in the Vatican on February 22, 2019. Media Vaticana / dispense via REUTERS

"For a mother, there are no first or second-class children: there are stronger and more vulnerable children, and there are no first- and second-class children for the Church," he said.

"(The Church) apparently more important children, as you are, bishops and cardinals – I dare not say the pope – are no more than any other boy, girl or youth who has experienced the tragedy of being the victim of abuse by a priest, "he said forcefully in Spanish.

Alazraki told the bishops that they could no longer "play the ostrich" and bury their heads in the sand.

"If you do not radically decide to be on the side of children, mothers, families, civil society, you're right to fear us, because we journalists, who seek the common good, will be your worst enemies," she said.

Alazraki, who was applauded at the end of his speech, also spoke of corruption cases in which religious orders and Church officials hide abuse because "money, compensation, gifts" or other illegal or immoral activities.

Previously, the German cardinal Reinhard Marx called for more "traceability and transparency", such as limiting secrecy in cases of abuse managed by the Vatican, releasing more statistics and publishing judicial procedures.

"Files that could have documented the terrible actions and names of those responsible have been destroyed, or even created." Instead of the perpetrators, the victims have been regulated and the silence imposed on them, "said Marx, one of the leading progressives.

"The rights of the victims have been effectively trampled and left to the whims of the people," he added.

The crisis of abuse has made 2018 one of the most difficult years for the pope since his election in 2013.

The 34 Chilean bishops offered to resign because of the scandal, the Pope's trip to Ireland exposed decades of abuse in the once highly Catholic nation and a grand jury in Pennsylvania revealed that priests sexually abused about 1,000 people in seventy & # 39; years in that state of the United States.

Presentation (6 images)

Victims, some of whom told painful stories of abuse and cover-ups when the conference began on Thursday, gathered in a square in Rome before a march to the Vatican to demand change and justice.

The conference ends on Sunday when the Pope delivers a final speech. The Vatican says it will formulate follow-up measures to make sure all bishops come home knowing how to implement anti-abuse procedures.

Reporting by Philip Pullella; Edmund Blair and Robin Pomeroy Editing

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