January 5, 2008 / 6:21 PM / 13 years ago

Vatican eyes prayer groups for sex abuse victims

File photo of Cardinal Claudio Hummes, head of the Congregation for the Clergy in Sao Paulo. Hummes has proposed creating prayer groups to pray for victims of sexual abuse by priests, in an effort to help heal wounds from recent abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church. REUTERS/Rickey Rogers/Files

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A top Vatican official has proposed creating prayer groups to pray for victims of sexual abuse by priests, in an effort to help heal wounds from recent abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Claudio Hummes, head of the Congregation for the Clergy which oversees the world’s 400,000 Catholic priests, told the Vatican’s official newspaper that he had already written to bishops urging them to promote such groups in which priests and the faithful gather to pray together.

“There have always been problems because we are all sinners,” Hummes told the L’Osservatore Romano. “But in these days, truly very serious issues have been revealed.”

The U.S. paedophile priest scandal first erupted in Boston in 2002 when many leaders of the archdiocese were found to have moved priests who abused minors to new parishes instead of defrocking them or reporting them to authorities.

After emerging in Boston, the scandal spread to almost every U.S. Catholic diocese. It led to dozens of lawsuits, millions of dollars in payments to victims and the defrocking, resignation and jailing of priests.

Last July the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to pay $660 million to 500 victims of sexual abuse dating back as far as the 1940s. Sexual abuse scandals have also hit Roman Catholic Churches in Ireland and other countries.

But Hummes said only a small number of clergymen were involved in serious abuse scandals.

“Obviously it must be remembered that only a minimal part of the clergy is involved in serious situations,” Hummes said.

“Not even 1 percent has anything to do with problems of moral and sexual conduct. The biggest majority has nothing to do with things of this nature.”

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