The Atlantic called it, "The Vatican's time for a deeper reckoning."
Pope Francis opened a summit Feb. 21 on preventing clerical sexual abuse, saying Catholics were looking to church leaders not for "simple and predictable condemnations" but for "concrete and effective measures" to deal with the scourge.
"May the Virgin Mary enlighten us as we seek to heal the grave wounds that the scandtal of pedophilia has caused" in both children and believers, Francis said, according to an official Vatican translation, The Washington Post reported.
The Pope called sexual abuse a "scourge" and urged the prelates in attendance "hear the cry of the little ones who plead for justice."
He said the assembled Catholic leaders were obliged to discuss, frankly and in depth, "how to confront this evil afflicting the Church and humanity."
The Post said the pontiff's brief address kicked off one of the most critical points of his papacy, a gathering of the world's leading bishops to discuss a problem that the Catholic Church has struggled for decades to curb — and that has now damaged the Pope's own reputation.
The Atlantic said Vatican officials said the meeting's themes will be responsibility, accountability, and transparency, and they hope that it will be a turning point.
But they've also tried to manage expectations, saying that while the gathering is an opportunity for discussion and reflection, it might not yet yield concrete measures.
"This is not going to be a three-day wonder, and we're not going to solve all the problems. Follow-up will be of the essence," Monsignor Charles J. Scicluna, the archbishop of Malta and one of the Vatican's longtime top investigators of sexual-abuse cases, said on Monday. Before the meeting begins, and before the crisis can be solved, here before the meeting began, and there are some questions that still need answering.
The New York Times reported that scandals have repeatedly emerged around the world even decades after the problem first came to light in the United States, where the systemic shuffling of predatory priests from parish to parish spread abuse like a virus.
But some of the victims of church predators are not convinced.
Some of the victims who had traveled to Rome, where they hovered outside news conferences, gave hours' worth of interviews, observed vigils and planned a Saturday march through the city, expressed exasperation.
Same old, same old," said Tim Law, president of the survivor's support group, Ending Clergy Abuse. "For six years of his papacy he has said, 'zero tolerance, zero tolerance,' " he added. "He's backed down."
Advocates for other victims of abuse and secrecy in the church, including for the children of priests and for nuns raped by clerics, also came to Rome to meet with top officials and take advantage of the intense media interest.
The meeting itself included the presidents of many of the world's bishops' conferences, men's and women's religious orders and powerful cardinals from his committee of top advisers, said the Times.