Australian bishop launches online petition for global Catholic council on sexual abuse

June 4, 2013

(Pope Francis looks on at the end of a mass marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Pope John XXIII, who called the Second Vatican Council, at the Vatican June 3, 2013. REUTERS/Tony Gentile )

A retired Australian bishop urged Roman Catholics around the world on Tuesday to sign an online petition to Pope Francis to call a new global council to take effective measures to end the sexual abuse of children in the Church.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, a former auxiliary bishop of Sydney who coordinated the Australian church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis, said only a council of the world’s bishops would have the power to make the changes he said were needed.

The meeting would be akin to the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council, Robinson told a news conference in Sydney, referring to the historic body that transformed the Catholic Church with modernizing reforms.

But this council would focus only on solving the abuse issue, he added.

Robinson said Francis had “given out a lot of good signals” since his surprise election in March and had spoken several times about abuse victims. The pope visited Catholic experts on abuse prevention in Rome on Tuesday and told them “This is important work, keep it up,” Vatican Radio reported.

The Argentinian-born pontiff, 76, has raised hopes for change among Catholics worldwide by ignoring Vatican protocol and openly addressing controversial issues, but it was not clear how he would react to an innovation like an online petition.

“The petition is not to challenge him, it’s to help him, to indicate that the people are with him in really looking at these factors and changing whatever needs to be changed,” Robinson said at the conference broadcast by Australia’s ABC television.

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