Pope Francis personally asks for forgiveness for Catholic Church's child sex abuse history
In an announcement made over Vatican Radio on Friday, Pope Francis came forward to discuss what he calls "moral damage carried out by men of the Church."
During his meeting with a Catholic children's non-governmental organization, Pope Francis said he felt compelled to "personally ask for forgiveness for the damage [some priests] have done for sexually [abusing] children," the Vatican radio website reports.
He declared that the number of convicted priests who have committed child sex abuses were "quite a few in number", although "obviously not compared to the number of all the priests."
"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 assured. "We have to be even stronger".
This is being considered his strongest statement on the issue so far.
During an interview last month, Pope Francis defended how the Catholic Church has dealt with child sex allegations. "No-one else has done more [to tackle child sexual abuse]. Yet the Church is the only one to have been attacked."
His defense came after a UN report accused the Vatican of regularly putting the "preservation of the reputation of the Church and the alleged offender over the protection of child victims," an action the Catholic Church often denies.
In most recent history, the Catholic Church and its priests have faced a large number of child sex abuse allegations, worldwide. Their bishops have long been accused of not responding adequately.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis tightened the Vatican's laws on child abuse to add that the act is considered in the Church's definition of 'crimes against minors.'
Pope Francis is not the first to apologize for the Catholics' wrongs. Pope Benedict XVI also apologized to victims while he served the Vatican, saying he was "truly sorry" for the Church's "sinful and criminal actions" done by priests.