Pope Francis has in a homily to sex abuse victims described his deep pain and suffering over Catholic clergy who "betrayed their mission" and "abused innocent persons."
Six abuse victims were present for the mass Monday in the Vatican guest house where they met Pope Francis and had the opportunity to speak with him privately, Vatican Radio reported.
Pope Francis said the Catholic Church "must weep and make reparation" for what it did to the victims.
Sexual abuse involving the Catholic clergy or people working for the church around the world is not new.
About 4 percent of U.S. priests ministering from 1950 to 2002 were accused of sex abuse with a minor, according to the first comprehensive national study of the issue, Catholic News Service reports.
The study said that 4,392 clergymen—almost all priests—were accused of abusing 10,667 people, with 75 percent of the incidents taking place between 1960 and 1984.
In his sermon, Pope Francis said that the church's past attitude towards sexual abuse was "camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained."
On behalf of the church, the Pope asked for forgiveness from victims of child abuse.
'I BEG YOUR FORGIVENESS'
"I beg your forgiveness, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves."
"This is what causes me distress and pain at the fact that some priests and bishops, by sexually abusing minors, violated their innocence and their own priestly vocation.
"It is something more than despicable actions. It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charism in order to be brought to God."
This abuse of minors committed by religious personnel in the United States was recently in the news as St. Louis Catholic priest Joseph Ross was accused of sexually abusing minors.
The case involves a woman, now in her 20s, who was allegedly abused form 1997 to 2001 while Ross was priest at St. Ronan's Parish. The reported abuse started when the girl was five years old.
To the public's dismay, Fox2 has learned that the attorneys in the case have agreed upon a settlement.
In his sermon Pope Francis said, "Many of those who have suffered in this way have also sought relief in the path of addiction.
"Others have experienced difficulties in significant relationships, with parents, spouses and children. Suffering in families has been especially grave, since the damage provoked by abuse affects these vital family relationships."
As a challenge, the Pope in his homily, urged the Church to "exercise vigilance in priestly formation."
He ended his homily with the prayer that God give him the courage to persevere on the path of pursuing the good of all children.