Pope Francis sought forgiveness for the "evil" of priests who sexually abused children, addressing head-on an issue Friday that has dogged the Catholic Church for two decades.
"I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children," he said on Vatican Radio.
The pontiff added: "The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children."
Critics have long accused the Church of trying to cover up the issue, thus putting young people at risk of sexual abuse for years.
But on March 22, the Pope named a victim of sexual abuse by a priest to be part of a group to help the Catholic Church tackle the issue.
The formation of a group of experts was first announced in December, and the pope last month named the first eight members — four female and four male — from eight different countries.
The commission would look at taking criminal action against offenders, educating people about the exploitation of children, developing best practices to better screen priests, and defining the civil and clerical duties within the Church, Lombardi said.
Among those named to the group was Marie Collins, who was a victim of sexual abuse in Ireland in the 1960s and who has campaigned actively for the protection of children and for justice for victims of clerical pedophilia.
Reuters contributed to this report.
First published April 11 2014, 5:04 AM
F. Brinley Bruton
F. Brinley Bruton is an editor and senior writer at NBCNews.com in London. Bruton reports, writes, edits and acts as the main point-person in London, commissioning and editing work by NBC News colleagues around the world. She started this role in May of 2007.
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At NBCNews.com and previously msnbc.com, she documented the economic crisisâ€™s deep impact on Spanish society. Bruton has also covered Turkeyâ€™s powerful Islamist government, and the struggle by young Muslim women to be accepted in mainstream society. She has also broken news on the booming North American methamphetamine trade.
Bruton joined NBCNews.com after working as a journalism trainer and mentor at Afghanistanâ€™s Pajhwok Afghan News. While in Afghanistan, she traveled to Farah Province â€“ off-limits to most Westerners â€“ to interview a female activist who became a hero after criticizing U.S.-backed militia leaders for the U.K.'s New Statesman magazine.
Bruton was also a reporter with Reuters in London and New York from 2000 to 2004. In New York, she broke stories about subprime and predatory lending at leading lenders like Citigroup and Countrywide. In London, she wrote about the rush to cash-in on reconstruction contracts after the invasion of Iraq.
Prior to her work at Reuters, Bruton worked at the Mexico City News where she covered, among other things, unionization efforts by the cityâ€™s sex workers.
Bruton lives in London, U.K.