Pope Francis asks for forgiveness over child sex abuse in Catholic church

Pope Francis today asked for forgiveness over the “evil” sexual abuse of children by priests in the Catholic church.

“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,” Francis was quoted saying by Vatican radio.

Francis was addressing members of the International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE), an NGO that works to protect children’s rights, during a meeting at the Vatican. Francis also vowed to take action and “be even stronger” when dealing with perpetrators.

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“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.”

In March, Francis named eight people to a new anti-abuse commission , including Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston. The commission is made up of lay and religious experts who will advise Francis on sex abuse policy.

O’Malley first announced the commission in December, after meeting with Francis at the Vatican. At that time, O’Malley said the commission would study programs to train church personnel and better screen priests. The Vatican has said the members will look into legal responsibilities and draft statutes, the Associated Press reports.

In his remarks today, Francis also spoke about the need to fight against all forms of violence towards children as well as slave-labor and the recruitment of child soldiers. He also spoke about reaffirming parents’ rights to “the moral and religious education of their children.”