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Catholic Church Explains Pope's Comment on ‘Sexual Slavery' of Nuns

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The Roman Catholic Church has sought to explain the "sexual slavery" comment Pope Francis made in connection to Catholic nuns.

Francis publicly discussed the reports of sexual abuse of nuns for the first time Tuesday. A reporter asked Francis about priests accused of abusing nuns.

Pope Francis receives a gift from a journalist during his flight from Abu Dhabi to Rome, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. Pope Francis has concluded his historic visit to the Arabian Peninsula with the first-ever papal Mass in the birthplace of Islam.
Pope Francis receives a gift from a journalist during his flight from Abu Dhabi to Rome, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. Pope Francis has concluded his historic visit to the Arabian Peninsula with the first-ever papal Mass in the birthplace of Islam.

Francis answered, "It's not that everyone does this, but there have been priests and bishops who have… And I think that it's continuing because it's not like once you realize it that it stops. It continues. And for some time we've been working on it."

Francis also expressed praise for Pope Benedict XVI for taking action in 2013 against abusers in a France-based religious order. Francis said the nuns in that order were subjected to "sexual slavery" by the founding priest and other clergymen.

Roman Catholic Church spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said Wednesday that Francis "spoke of 'sexual slavery' to mean 'manipulation' or a type of abuse of power that is reflected in a sexual abuse."

In the past year, The Associated Press and other media have published stories about reports of abuse of nuns in India, Africa, Europe and South America.

The International Union of Superiors organization represents Catholic female religious orders. In November, it denounced the "culture of silence and secrecy" that prevented nuns from speaking out about abuse.

It also urged nuns to report abuse to their supervisors and to police.

I'm Ashley Thompson.

The Associated Press reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

Words in This Story

nun - n. a woman who is a member of a religious community and who usually promises to remain poor, unmarried, and separate from the rest of society in order to serve God

priest - n. a person who has the authority to lead or perform ceremonies in some religions and especially in some Christian religions

bishop - n. an official in some Christian religions who is ranked higher than a priest and who is usually in charge of church matters in a specific geographical area

manipulation - n. the act of dealing with or control (someone or something) in a clever and usually unfair or selfish way

type - n. a particular kind or group of things or people

reflect - v. to show (something) : to make (something) known

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