John Paul II 'failed to act over multiple child rapes'
Pope John Paul II should not be made a saint this weekend because of his failure to bring to justice sexually abusive priests and the bishops who covered up their crimes, victims have said.
The late Polish pontiff could have prevented "thousands" of children from being raped by paedophile priests but instead chose to ignore the scandal in the interests of protecting the image of the Roman Catholic Church, victims from three continents said on the eve of his canonisation.
Up to a million Catholic faithful from around the world are expected to pour into St Peter's Square tomorrow to see Pope Francis canonise John Paul II and Pope John XXIII, an Italian pontiff who reigned in the 1960s. But campaigners say that John Paul II's refusal to tackle the sex abuse crisis that exploded during his papacy means he is not worthy of sainthood.
"It's time for the Vatican to stop honouring those who enabled wrongdoing," said Barbara Blaine, the president of the Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which represents 18,000 people from 79 countries who were sexually abused by members of the church.
"There is irrefutable documentary evidence to show that John Paul II refused to take action that would have protected children during his 27-year papacy. Thousands of victims were abused because John Paul refused to read the reports he was receiving."
Supporters of the late Polish pope say he was slow to wake up to the enormity of the scandal because in his homeland he had witnessed the communist authorities use trumped-up allegations to attack the church.
They also claim that his aides may have known of the scandals but kept them from the pope – an argument discounted by victims' groups.
Campaigners say that while the past cannot be erased, the church needs to take concrete action now to prevent abuse in the future.
"We will never know what it may have been like to grow up not being raped," said Mrs Blaine, an American, who was abused as a child by a priest. "We cannot go back, but we can try to prevent others from enduring the same hardships that we endured."
David D'Bonnabel (53), from Austria, another victim of clerical sex abuse, said: "It rubs salt into an open wound to promote someone who enabled and protected sexual predators. The injuries last a lifetime."
In Austria, the church had paid token compensation to 1,800 victims of abuse in return for their silence, and not one priest had been removed, he said.
Victims' groups are also highly critical of Pope Francis, saying that he has taken no tangible steps against abusive clergy during his 13-month papacy, instead simply forming a committee to address the issue.
In a newspaper interview in March, which prompted outrage from survivors of sexual abuse, he claimed that "no one else has done more" than the Catholic Church to root out paedophilia.
Mrs Blaine said: "Francis is cleaning up the Vatican bureaucracy and demoting bishops who live in luxurious mansions but he has taken no action to protect children. Sexual predators remain in the church today." (© Daily Telegraph, London)