Pope Francis asks for forgiveness for ‘evil’ child abuse carried out by priests

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The Pope has asked for forgiveness for the “moral damage” caused to children through abuse carried out by clergy members.

Describing such abuse as “evil”, Pope Francis said that “sanctions” would be imposed due to the “moral damage carried out by men of the Church”.

According to the Vatican Radio website, the Pope gave an interview during which he said he felt he should “personally ask for forgiveness for the damage [clergy members] have done for having sexually abused children.”

“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 said. “We have to be even stronger”, he went on.

Despite saying those priests who had committed abuses were “quite few in number”, Pope Francis admitted: “Obviously not compared to the number of all the priests.”

Following criticism from the UN on sexual abuse by priests last month, Pope Francis defended the Catholic Church on its handling of the situation.

Last year the Pope set up a committee aiming to help organise help for victims of clerical sexual abuse. He has been accused by some of delaying in accepting the amount of damage done.

Vatican law on child abuse was changed earlier this year, to include sexual abuse of children.

Last week the Vatican has announced it is to investigate the sexual misconduct of the disgraced Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

Cardinal O’Brien, 75, resigned as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church in late February following accusations by several priests of inappropriate “sexual conduct”.