VATICAN CITY — Survivors of clergy sex abuse on Wednesday demanded transparency, zero tolerance for abuse and accountability for religious superiors who cover up for rapists, setting a confrontational tone on the eve of Pope Francis’ high-stakes abuse prevention summit.

The victims also demanded to meet with Francis himself, but had to settle instead for a two-hour roundtable with members of the organizing committee for the four-day summit, which starts Thursday.

The gathering of church leaders from around the globe is taking place amid intense scrutiny of the Catholic Church’s record after new allegations of abuse and cover-up last year sparked a credibility crisis for the hierarchy.

Phil Saviano, an American who played a crucial role in exposing clergy abuse in the United States decades ago, said he told the summit organizers to release the names of abusive priests around the world along with their case files.

“Do it to launch a new era of transparency,” Saviano said he told the committee. “Do it to break the code of silence. Do it out of respect for the victims of these men, and do it to help prevent these creeps from abusing any more children.”

More than 30 years after the scandal first erupted in Ireland and Australia and 20 years after it hit the U.S., bishops and superiors in many parts of Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia either deny clergy sex abuse exists in their regions or downplay the problem.

Some 190 leaders of bishops’ conferences, religious orders and Vatican offices are gathering for four days of lectures and workshops on preventing sex abuse in their churches, tending to victims and investigating the crimes when they occur.

“I think that the time for words is long, long past,” said Archbishop Mark Benedict Coleridge, of Brisbane, Australia.

“We are dealing with a global emergency … that requires a global response.”

The Vatican isn’t expecting any miracles, and the pope himself has called for expectations to be “deflated.” But organizers say the meeting marks a turning point in the way the Catholic Church has dealt with the problem, with Francis’ own acknowledgment of botching an abuse cover-up case in Chile last year a key point of departure.

“I have been impressed by the humility of the Holy Father,” said Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna.


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