Pope Francis

Reports say Pope Francis has admitted that clerics have sexually abused nuns, and in one case they were kept as sex slaves.

He said in that case his predecessor, Pope Benedict, was forced to shut down an entire congregation of nuns who were being abused by priests.

It is thought to be the first time that Pope Francis has acknowledged the sexual abuse of nuns by the clergy.

Pope Francis made the comments on Tuesday to reporters while on a historic tour of the Middle East.

He admitted that priests and bishops had abused nuns, but said the Church was aware of the issue and is working on it.

He added that Pope Benedict had the courage to dissolve a female congregation which was at a certain level, because this slavery of women had entered it.

Alessandro Gisotti of the Vatican press office later told CBS News that the order in question had been based in France.

Last November, the Catholic Church’s global organisation for nuns denounced the “culture of silence and secrecy” that prevented them from speaking out.

Just days ago the Vatican’s women magazine, Women Church World, condemned the abuse saying in some cases nuns were forced to abort priests’ children, something Catholicism forbids.

-BBC