Pope encourages priests disheartened by sex abuse fallout

Pope Francis prays for the dead and injured of the three U.S. mass shootings, during the Angelus noon prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sun

Pope Francis prays for the dead and injured of the three U.S. mass shootings, during the Angelus noon prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sun

Pope Francis delivers his message during the Angelus noon prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. Francis told a crowd gath

Pope Francis delivers his message during the Angelus noon prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. Francis told a crowd gath

Nuns shelters from the sun with their umbrellas bearing the colors of the Vatican flag prior to the start of Pope Francis Angelus prayer in St. Peter'

Nuns shelters from the sun with their umbrellas bearing the colors of the Vatican flag prior to the start of Pope Francis Angelus prayer in St. Peter'

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has sent a letter to priests worldwide offering encouragement in light of the global sex abuse scandal that has shaken the Roman Catholic Church.

In a nearly 5,000-word letter, the pope on Sunday acknowledged the "pain" of priests who "feel themselves attacked and blamed for crimes they did not commit."

The pontiff said priests have shared "their outrage at what happened, and their frustration that 'for all their hard work, they have to face the damage that was done, the suspicion and uncertainty to which it has given rise,'"

Francis said "without denying or dismissing the harm" caused by the scandals, "it would be unfair not to express our gratitude" to priests who have fulfilled their duties "faithfully and generously."