14 Jul 2014

Catholic Church applauds Pope's stand

3:25 pm on 14 July 2014

New Zealand's Catholic Church says it's heartened by Pope Francis's willingness to tackle child abuse.

But a spokesperson says the Church can't comment on whether figures released by the Pope reflect the New Zealand situation.

Italian newspaper La Republica quoted the pontiff as saying the level of paedophilia in the church is about 2 percent.

The newspaper says the Pope also considers the abuse of children to be like leprosy in the Church.

Pope Francis has begged forgiveness from victims who were sexually abused by Catholic priests.

Pope Francis apologises to sex abuse victims. Photo: AFP FILE

The article was countered by the Vatican, which issued a statement saying some parts of it were inaccurate, including one that quoted the Pope as saying cardinals were among the abusers.

In New Zealand at least 15 Catholic clergy have been convicted of sexual offences against children since the 1990s.

The Church's director of professional standards, Bill Kilgallon, said it was impossible to apply such statistics to New Zealand.

But he said six priests were currently under investigation for historic sexual abuse.

Mr Kilgallon said the Pope was calling on the Catholic Church to eradicate child sex abuse.

"He's made it absolutely clear that one person abusing childred is one person too many. He's given a very clear message right across the Church that he wants the churches in every country to take action on this."