Pope begs victims of sex abuse to forgive

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Pope Francis has begged forgiveness from the victims of clergy sex abuse in his first meeting with abuse survivors.

The Vatican quoted Francis as expressing “sorrow” in his homily at a private Mass with six victims yesterday for the “sins and grave crimes” of clerical sex abuse against them.

The Pope added: “I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately.”

Earlier, Vatican spokesman the Rev Federico Lombardi said two Irish, two British and two German victims had met separately for about 30 minutes apiece with Francis at the Pope’s Vatican hotel.

He said Francis had already greeted the six on Sunday evening at dinner.

Other abuse survivors not at the meeting said the encounter would not ease complaints that the Vatican had failed to punish bishops and other prelates who systemically covered up the abuse of minors.

A German survivor advocacy spokesman, Norbert Denef, called the meeting “nothing more than a PR event”.

Francis pledged “not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not” and promised that bishops “will be held accountable”.

He said the failure to respond adequately to reports of abuse had “led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused and it endangered other minors who were at risk”.

Francis noted the abuse caused some victims to resort to addictions or even suicide.

“The deaths of these so beloved children of God weigh upon the heart and my conscience and that of the whole church,” he said.