VATICAN CITY — For four days, some of the world’s highest-ranking Catholics listened to speeches about the “outrage of the people” and the imperative of action. They heard testimony from abuse victims, including one who movingly played the violin. And on Sunday, they gathered in a frescoed Vatican hall, where Pope Francis concluded the clerical sexual abuse summit by calling for an “all-out battle” against the scourge.

But the unprecedented meeting ended Sunday with few concrete remedies, and it left the Catholic Church much where it started at the beginning of the week: asking for more time from an impatient faithful to draw up ways to reliably police itself.

“We are dealing with abominable crimes that must be erased from the face of the earth,” Francis said in a speech that was short on specifics but mentioned future “legislation.”

The vague outcome underscored the looming challenge for an institution that has long acknowledged the seriousness of clerical abuse but struggled to curtail it. While some participants said the event would prove to be a turning point, many victims said it had amounted to a training seminar that skirted key decisions and raised points that should have been obvious years ago.

“I don’t think we can rely on the institution to clean up its act,” said Peter Saunders, a British sex abuse survivor and former member of Francis’ commission on the protection of minors.

Since the clergy abuse scandal first exploded onto the scene in the United States in 2002, the Vatican has seen cases emerge in nearly every corner of the world with the means to investigate. Thousands of priests have been disciplined by the Holy See, but even that figure doesn’t account for the scale of the problem, as many accusations are never reported to Rome.

The Argentine pontiff announced the summit in September, while facing abuse-related scandals on multiple continents – stemming from cases that had damaged his own reputation and further eroded the credibility of the church. At the start of the event, Francis called for “concrete and effective measures” to contend with the problem. And though some of the Vatican’s handpicked speakers described their proposals in detail, any follow-through will have to come in the months and years ahead, if at all. Several U.S. bishops pledged Sunday to improve their own guidelines at a June meeting.

The event organizers have said they will remain in Rome in the coming days to discuss some of the ideas aired at the summit. Archbishop Charles Scicluna, of Malta, noted that Francis on Thursday handed out “21 reflection points” – ideas for action that the church can potentially take against abuse. After a group discussion session, some bishops responded with 21 ideas of their own.

“We need to bring all of this together when we’re discussing follow-up,” Scicluna said.

In his remarks Sunday, Pope Francis spoke in sweeping terms about abuse, describing the underlying reasons that victims are fearful to speak out and the fallout they face as adults, including “bitterness” and “suicide.” Parts of his speech – which was heavily footnoted with data from international organizations – had little to do with the church, and he mentioned how abuse can take place within families, schools and athletic facilities, and how the digital world adds new dangers for young people.

Abuse is a “worldwide phenomenon,” Francis said, but it is “all the more grave and scandalous in the church,” incompatible with its “moral authority and ethical credibility.”

Francis said the church would “spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice” anyone who has committed the “crimes” of abuse.

But he did not mention a zero-tolerance policy, favored by many Catholics, that would force priests found guilty of child abuse to be removed automatically from ministry. Though some countries, including the United States, have such zero tolerance guidelines on the books, it is not an across-the-board church practice.

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