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New Crookston bishop says sexual abuse victims are priority

October 18, 2021 GMT

CROOKSTON, Minn. (AP) — The new bishop of the Crookston diocese said Monday he has learned important lessons about how the Roman Catholic church should respond to abuse by priests.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens replaced Bishop Michael Hoeppner, who resigned earlier this year at the request of Pope Francis after an investigation into whether he covered up sexual abuse in the Crookston diocese.

Cozzens, who started his previous job as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis just days before a sexual abuse investigation there became public, said he’s seen how difficult it can be to change the culture of the church in order to deal with the sexual abuse crisis.

He added that it’s a challenging time for the church and abuse victims should be the church’s priority, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

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“Victims are in fact the people we should be most caring for in the crisis, and that the church can actually grow towards health, and being part of the solution for this great problem which plagues all of our society,” he said.

Cozzens grew up in Colorado, attended seminary in St. Paul and was ordained in 1997.