Pope Benedict XVI's announcement that he will step aside this month means "he still has two weeks" to take action against child sex abuse by church staff, a US victims' group said Monday.
The pope announced earlier that he will resign because of old age, becoming the first pontiff in more than six centuries to step down in a move that stunned the world.
"No matter how tired or weak Pope Benedict may be, he still has two weeks to use his vast power to protect youngsters. Before he steps down, we hope he will show true leadership and compassion and take tangible action to safeguard vulnerable children," read a statement by SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
"Imagine the shock waves -- and the hope -- that would be generated if, in his waning days, the pontiff demoted, disciplined, or defrocked even a handful of bishops who are concealing child sex crimes. And imagine the deterrent that would be to present and future cover ups," they stressed.
The group said the outgoing pontiff sadly "followed the same script church officials have used for years, speaking of abuse in oblique terms and only when forced to do so, ignoring the cover ups, using past tense (as if to pretend clergy sex crimes and cover ups are not still happening now). Instead of taking sweeping, proactive steps to deter wrongdoing, he offered only belated verbal apologies and ineffective symbolic gestures."
Groups like SNAP representing victims of child abuse in Catholic-run institutions generally welcomed the resignation.