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Pope Francis - Copyright AGF s.r.l. / REX
UK News

Pope asks for forgiveness over child abuse priests

Pope Francis is being accused by survivors of just saying 'words' in his latest attempts to tackle the issue of clergy abuse.

The pontiff says he feels 'compelled to personally take on' the issue of clergy abuse within the Catholic Church. He has been addressing members of the International Catholic Child Bureau and thanking them for the work they do with young people around the world.

He said: "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.

"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."

His comments come just months after he previously defended the Catholic Church in the face of criticism over clergy abuse.

He said no one has done more than the Church to tackle the issue.

Support group Survivors Voice Europe says his latest comments are 'ludicrous'.

Founder Sue Cox tells Premier's Marcus Jones the Pope's been forced into making a statement.

His comments come just months after the Vatican came under fierce criticism from the United Nations for failing to protect children from sexual abuse.

A committee for children's rights accused the Catholic Church of widespread cover ups and adopting policies which allow clergymen to get away with their crimes.

The UN committee said its investigation had shown the Holy See had adopted policies which had led to the continuation of abuse.

The watchdog's exceptionally blunt paper, the most far-reaching critique of the Church hierarchy by the world body, followed its public grilling of Vatican officials in Geneva last month. It demanded the Vatican "immediately remove" all clergy who are known or suspected child abusers.

Peter Williams is spokesman for the comment group Catholic Voices. He told Premier's Des Busteed on the News Hour, despite what many say, the Church has never hidden away from addressing the issue of clergy abuse.

In recent years the Church has faced many allegations of child sex abuse by priests from all corners of the world and criticism over the way bishops have dealt with cases.

As a result, many countries have toughened up their safeguarding procedures while the Vatican has broadened the definition of crimes against children to include sexual abuse.

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