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Pope Francis asking for pardon in sex abuse cases

VATICAN CITY--Pope Francis asked for forgiveness Friday from people who were sexually abused by priests, and vowed that there will be no going back in the church's fight to protect children.

Francis made the off-the-cuff remarks after coming under criticism from victims' advocacy groups for a perceived lack of attention to the problem and ongoing demands that he sanction bishops who covered up for pedophiles.

In his remarks to members of the International Catholic Child Bureau, a French Catholic network of organizations that protects children's rights, Francis said he felt “called to take it upon myself” and “ask forgiveness” for the evil that some priests had committed against children.

“The church is aware of this damage,” he was quoted as saying by Vatican Radio. “We don't want to take a step back in dealing with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, I think we must be even stronger! You don't play around with the lives of children.”

Last month, Francis named the initial members of a commission to advise him on best practices to combat sexual abuse in the church. Half of them are women and one was assaulted by a priest as a child.

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