Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Pope Francis said in a letter Thursday that lingering clerical sex abuse scandals have damaged the Catholic Church in the United States and called on U.S. bishops to change the church's mindset.
The eight-page letter was sent to bishops during a weeklong retreat at Mundelein Seminary, north of Chicago at the University of St. Mary of the Lake. In the letter, Francis said damage had been done to the church because of the "sins and crimes" of sexual abuse and efforts to discredit and minimize its effects.
"In recent years, the Church in the United States has been shaken by various scandals that have gravely affected its credibility," the pope wrote. "These have been times of turbulence in the lives of all those victims who suffered in their flesh the abuse of power and conscience and sexual abuse on the part of ordained ministers, male and female religious and lay faithful.
"The church has been seriously undercut and diminished by these sins and crimes, but even more by the efforts made to deny or conceal them," he added.
Francis said changes are needed in the church and bishops are being called on to "like weavers" prepared it.
"This requires not only a new approach to management, but also a change in our mind-set, our way of praying, our handling of power and money, our exercise of authority and our way of relating to one another and world around us," the pope wrote.
While not offering any specifics, Francis asked bishops not to give in to the temptation of "lack of unity, division, and dispersion, as well as attempts to flee," because it would restore their mission to repair the church.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, headed the weeklong retreat.
In August, a Pennsylvania grand jury charged that six dioceses in the state systematically covered up the sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children by hundreds of clergymen over the past seven decades.
The grand jury concluded the church routinely put the institution above the interests of the victims by protecting many of the accused clergy it identified.