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Pope says sorry for 'evil' of clergy sex abuse

  • Story Highlights
  • Pope apologized in Australia for suffering caused to victims of clergy sex abuse
  • He talked about "shame that we have all felt as result of the sexual abuse"
  • He called the abuse a grave betrayal of trust that damaged the Church
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(CNN) -- Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday offered his strongest public statement yet on sex abuse against minors by Roman Catholic priests, apologizing to victims and calling the abuse "evil."

The apology came during a mass in Sydney, Australia, and expands on comments the pope made during an April visit to the United States, during which he publicly acknowledged the pain the church's sex abuse scandal has caused and met privately with abuse victims.

"Indeed, I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them as their pastor that I too share in their suffering," he said Saturday at Sydney's St. Mary's Cathedral.

The comments came on the pope's third day of public appearances in Australia, where he is attending World Youth Day. Dubbed "the Catholic Woodstock," the event is believed to be the largest Christian gathering in the world and this year is believed to have attracted more than 150,000 people from 70 countries.

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The pope said he wanted to "acknowledge the shame which we have all felt" over reports of sex abuse by clergy and said those responsible for the "evils" should be brought to justice.

He asked those attending the mass to help their bishops to end the abuse.

"It is an urgent priority to create a safer, more wholesome environment, especially for young people," he said.

In April, the 81-year-old pontiff acknowledged "the enormous pain" caused by sexual abuse of children by the clergy.

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"It is vitally important that the vulnerable are always shielded from souls who would cause harm," he said then.

Benedict also met with three people who said they were childhood victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

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