WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Pope Francis spoke out against sexual abuse crimes perpetrated by Catholic Church officials during a midday prayer event Wednesday at Washington D.C.'s Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.
Francis told U.S. bishops at the event that courage was needed to face the sexual abuse problem within the church, Catholic News Service reported. He said the problem must be addressed to regain authority and trust that believers expect.
The pope said he knows of pain the sexual abuse crisis caused, adding he supports U.S. bishops' pledge to bring healing to victims as to make sure "such crimes will never be repeated."
Francis made the comments after being welcomed by President Barack Obama at the White House, where the pontiff praised the president's efforts to combat climate change.
The pope also urged bishops to work together to harbor unity within the church and to encourage people to journey toward the teachings of Jesus Christ.
"I'm not here to hand you a strategic plan, nor tell you what to do, judge and lecture you. I trust in God's voice to speak and teach," Francis said. "We bishops must not be tempted by narcissism, which blinds us, makes our voice unrecognizable, actions fruitless."
The pope also told bishops that the church cannot be silent on the issues of abortion, human trafficking, pollution, poverty, war and immigrants who drown, in reference to the European migrant crisis.
"Bishops need to be lucidly aware of the battle between light and darkness being fought in this world," Francis said.
On Thursday, the pope will address a joint meeting of Congress at 9:20 a.m. before visiting the St. Patrick Catholic Church and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington starting about 11 a.m.
After visiting Washington D.C., the pope will head to New York City and Philadelphia.