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Pope asks for forgiveness for sexual abuse by priests

Pope Francis has asked for forgiveness from victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests. This is the first time he has made such an apology since being elected as pontiff last year.

Speaking to members of the International Catholic Child Bureau, Pope Francis on Friday personally asked forgiveness for child sex abuse committed by priests.

"I feel compelled... to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children," Vatican Radio quoted the pope as saying.

Francis said the number of priests who had committed the abuse were "quite a few in number" but "obviously not compared to the number of all the priests."

"The Church is aware of this damage," he told the French Catholic network of organizations that aim to protect children's rights.

"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," he added.

Over the past decade, the Catholic Church has been rocked by repeated revelations of sexual abuses committed by priests and subsequent cover-ups by their bishops.

The Vatican has vowed a zero-tolerance approach and implemented prevention and detection measures to root out abuse.

Last month, Francis named the initial members of a committee, announced in December, to advise him on best practices to protect children from sexual abuse in the Church.

Francis's predecessor, German-born Benedict XVI, had also made a personal apology for cases of abuse.

hc/pfd (AFP, AP)

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