UK & World News
Pope Asks For Forgiveness For Abuse Scandal
Pope Francis has asked for forgiveness for the damage done by Roman Catholic priests who abused children.
According to Vatican Radio, the Pope told members of a children's rights group he felt "compelled... to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children".
He said that members of the clergy who had molested young children were "quite a few in number".
The Pope said: "The Church is aware of this damage."
He added: "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, I think we must be even stronger. You don't play around with the lives of children."
The Vatican says the Church has begun enforcing prevention and detection measures to eradicate abuse, however the success of these measures is said to vary widely between countries.
Thousands of abuse claims, dating back decades, have come to light in recent years.
The Church's handling of the allegations has been a subject of controversy with frequent reports of cases being covered up.
Pope Francis has also faced personal criticism for not taking a tough enough stand on the issue.
In February a UN committee released the findings of a month-long investigation into clerics "involved in the abuse of tens of thousands of children worldwide".
It raised concerns that sexual abusers were moved from parish to parish or across borders and that there was a "code of silence" among the clergy.
The UN committee urged the Holy See to share information on all cases of abuse, amid reports the Vatican had declined to provide any data relating to the scandal.
The Pope's predecessor Benedict XVI also issued an apology for abuses.