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Victims of sexual abuse in Argentina with new message to pope Francis

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Three deaf survivors of clerical sexual abuse from Argentina say they want Pope Francis finally to live up to his promises of reform – and they are taking their call directly to the Vatican this week.

The three told AFP they were “tortured” by their abusers but now felt emboldened after a high-profile trial in their case last year that put two priests behind bars for decades in the pope’s homeland.

“In the world there are a lot of countries where these things continue to happen and there’s silence,” said Daniel Sgardelis, 45, speaking through a sign language interpreter during a visit to the UN in Geneva. Sgardelis was abused by Nicola Corradi, an Italian priest sentenced to 42 years in prison in Argentina in November for assaulting some 20 children at the Provolo Institute for children with hearing and speech disorders. An Argentine priest, Horacio Corbacho, was sentenced to 45 years in prison at the same trial — one of several involving the school, some of which are still going on. The abuse scandal is one of thousands that have shaken the Catholic Church, mainly in Europe and the United States.

The Church has been accused of covering up this abuse for decades by moving abusing priests between different parishes and countries — a practice that Pope Francis has vowed to end. Claudia Labeguerie, 26, another survivor from the Provolo Institute, said she believed there were still abusive priests being protected by the Church.

“The pope knows that they should be incarcerated but even so he doesn’t do anything about it. I would like to know why there’s nothing being done about it,” she said.“There is still a lot of abuse, a lot of victims, victims just like us and it’s necessary for the laws to change.”

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