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Sex abuse scandal has ‘undercut’ Church credibility – Pope

Pope Francis has criticised American bishops for "pointing fingers" and failing to show unity amid a sexual abuse crisis.

In a rare eight-page letter sent to bishops on Thursday, he said internal conflicts had to end over the scandal, which he said had "seriously undercut and diminished" the church's credibility.

The Pope said the handling of the abuse scandal highlighted the urgent need for a new approach to the church's management and mindset.

"God's faithful people and the church's mission continue to suffer greatly as a result of abuses of power and conscience and sexual abuse, and the poor way that they were handled," he wrote.

He added that bishops had "concentrated more on pointing fingers than on seeking paths of reconciliation".

Pope Francis continued: "The church's credibility has been seriously undercut and diminished by these sins and crimes, but even more by the efforts made to deny or conceal them."

Senior Catholic bishops from around the world have been summoned to the Vatican next month to discuss the protection of children as the pontiff attempts to come to grips with the abuse scandal which first unravelled in the US.

In anticipation of the meeting, American bishops gathered on Wednesday near Chicago for a week of prayer and reflection.

Francis said he was so concerned about the situation that he wanted to attend the US retreat himself but was unable to do so, citing "logistical reasons".

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His letter comes as 50 Roman Catholic dioceses around the US released the names of more than 1,000 priests accused of sexually abusing children.

It followed in the wake of a report from Pennsylvania, which found that the abuse of more than 1,000 children for decades by hundreds of priests was systemically covered up by church officials.

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