Pope Francis has ordered Catholic leaders to Rome to address the global epidemic of sex abuse in the church.
The pope says it's time to end the culture of silence and expose the sins of the guilty. That's why victims are also at the summit, telling their stories of abuse suffered at the hands of priests.
Pope Francis said he called the Vatican summit so church leaders would realize he means business.
He said it's time to move the church from a culture of silence, to exposure.
The goal of the four-day papal summit is to hear from victims, find solutions, and acknowledge that sexual abuse by priests is a worldwide problem.
The global gathering began with the pope kissing the hand of an abuse victim. He then told attendees the Catholic Church must not only speak words, but take concrete actions.
He urged the cardinals, bishops and priests to, "Listen to the cry of the young who want justice."
On CBN's Newswatch program, Catholic News Agency editor-in-chief JD Flynn said the pope is hoping the summit will be a catalyst for change. He wants bishops in the developing world to adopt the same child protection policies as those enacted in the United States.
"While the US church has been working for the past two decades to develop safe environment policies, in many countries in the world that has not yet happened," he said.
Phil Saviano was among 12 abuse victims invited to testify at the Vatican.
"I've been talking about this for I think 28-years now. I know some organizations move slowly but this is ridiculous," Saviano said.
Others were just as critical about the Catholic Church's mishandling of sexual abuse allegations. Pennsylvania lawmaker Mark Rozzi spoke to reporters about his childhood sexual abuse.
"What the Catholic Church Conference – the cardinals, the bishops, the pope – what they are doing, they are blocking justice for all victims of sexual abuse. And that is a crime," Rozzi said emphatically.
One victim testified that a priest raped her repeatedly starting when she was 15. Although the Catholic Church is officially staunchly pro-life, the priest forced her to have three abortions over a 12-year time span.
The Vatican's lead sex crimes investigator said pedophiles must be prevented form entering the priesthood. He said sex abuse allegations must be taken seriously and investigated.
The Vatican insists that not all priests found guilty of sexual abuse be defrocked. Activist Miguel Hurtado of the group Ending Clergy Abuse said that is unacceptable.
"What they say is that the decision of whether a bishop or priest should remain in ministry will depend on a case by case basis. That's not good enough," he insisted.