Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Pope Francis said in a speech to diplomats Monday next month's meeting with bishops from around the world will "shed full light" on reported cases of sex abuse.
In pointed comments, the pope called out those suspected of abuse as committing the most "heinous crimes conceivable" against children.
"Here I cannot refrain from speaking of one of the plagues of our time, which sadly has also involved some members of the clergy," Pope Francis said in his speech. "The abuse of minors is one of the vilest and most heinous crimes conceivable. Such abuse inexorably sweeps away the best of what human life holds out for innocent children, and causes irreparable and lifelong damage.
"The Holy See and the Church as a whole are working to combat and prevent these crimes and their concealment, in order to ascertain the truth of the facts involving ecclesiastics and to render justice to minors who have suffered sexual violence aggravated by the abuse of power and conscience."
The Catholic Church in the United States has been rocked by renewed allegations of sexual abuse over the past year. In December, the Illinois attorney general's office said six dioceses there failed to reveal abuse allegations against at least 500 clergy members.
That report came months after a highly-publicized grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania in which six dioceses were accused of systematically covering up the abuse of more than 1,000 children by hundreds of clergymen.
In a letter last week to U.S. bishops, Pope Francis admitted that the scandals have tarnished the church.
The pope on Monday also sent Christmas and New Year's greetings to Coptic Christians and Egyptians as they celebrated the opening of a major cathedral along with a mosque at the same complex.
"The prince of peace gives the gift of peace and prosperity to Egypt, the Middle East and all the world," the pope said.
Monday was Christmas for the Coptic Orthodox Church.