Pope begs forgiveness, promises action on abuse

(AP) - Addressing the clerical abuse scandal from the heart of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI begged forgiveness Friday from victims and promised to "do everything possible" to protect children at a Mass celebrated by 15,000 priests from around the world.

While symbolic, Benedict's pledge failed to satisfy victims groups who said promises were useless without a clear-cut action plan to root out pedophile priests, expose the bishops who protected them and change the Vatican policies and culture that allowed abuse to continue.

His comments came during a Mass at St. Peter's Square marking the Vatican's Year of the Priest - a year marred by revelations of hundreds of new cases of clerical abuse in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere, as well as cover-ups by bishops and evidence of long-standing Vatican inaction.

It was the first time Benedict had spoken of the crisis from St. Peter's Basilica, the center of the church.

Benedict implied the devil was behind the timing of the scandal, saying the Year of the Priest was supposed to have been a year in celebration of the priesthood and encouragement for new vocations.

The pope also begged forgiveness from victims in his Marchletter to the Irish faithful.

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