He described the situation as “crime against humanity” and asked forgiveness on behalf of Catholic men who patronize prostitutes.
The Christian leader said this while leading the Episcopal Ordination at Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.
Blessing Okoedion, a 32-year-old Nigerian who was once a victim of human sexual trafficking, had told the Pope she was troubled that many clients of prostitutes on the streets of Rome were Catholics.
“I ask myself and I ask you, is it possible for a Church that is still too male chauvinist to be able to question itself truthfully about this high demand by clients?” Reuters quoted her as asking.
Responding, Francis said, “I would like to take advantage of this moment to ask forgiveness from you (exploited women) and society for all the Catholics who carry out this criminal act”.
“I think of the disgust these girls must feel when men make them do these things”.
Francis added that sexual exploitation of women stemmed from a “sick mentality” embedded in many people.
“(It says) women are to be exploited in one way or another. And that is what explains this … it is a sickness of humanity, a sickness of looking at society in a certain way, a crime against humanity,” he said.
“Who does this is a criminal. This is not making love, this is torturing a woman. Let’s not confuse terms. This is criminal, a sick mentality”.
Prostitutes, most of them victims of human trafficking from Nigeria, other African countries and Eastern Europe, are found at night on the streets of Rome’s periphery and around parks.