Pope Francis further admitted the mistreatment of women was a "cultural problem" and allegations about nuns being abused were being individually investigated.
His comments in Rome, on his return from a historic visit to the United Arab Emirates, were his first public acknowledgment of the scandal of priests and bishops sexually abusing nuns.
"It's not that everyone does this, but there have been priests and bishops who have", he explained, adding, "it's not as though the moment you become aware of something it goes away".
The pope was responding to a question about clergymen who target adult nuns and what approach the Holy See is considering to eradicate it. Last week, even the women's magazine of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano reported on nuns having abortions or giving birth to children fathered by priests or bishops.
File image of Pope Francis. "We have suspended some priests because of this", he said, adding the Vatican was in the process of shutting down a female religious order because of sexual abuse and corruption. The admission also comes in the wake of the International Union of Superiors General's November 2018 denouncement of the church's "culture of silence" concerning abused nuns. It said Pope Francis "considered this pope's holiness of life, witnessed to by his works and words" and took into account "the great influence of his apostolic ministry for the Church throughout the whole world". The thing goes forward like this. The issue hit the headlines a year ago after a nun accused an Indian bishop of repeatedly raping her in a case that triggered rare dissent within the country's Catholic Church. They said that if they receive a report of abuse they will help the person bring the complaint "to the appropriate organizations". "With the #MeToo movement going strong, and Francis under pressure for neglecting the victims of child abuse, the nuns' pleas have gained traction".
One nun said last year that an Italian priest forced himself onto her when she was recounting her sins to him in a university classroom around 20 years ago. "I pretended it didn't happen".
He recalled that over one million Christians live in the UAE, mainly workers from Asian countries, and that he met with representatives of the Catholic community at Abu Dhabi's St Josepth Cathedral, celebrating a mass with patriarchs, archbishops and bishops in which they "prayed in particular for peace and justice, with special intention for the Middle East and Yemen".