Forgive paedophile priests
Vatican City - Pope Benedict XVI on Friday begged for forgiveness for the paedophile priest scandals rocking the Roman Catholic Church in his clearest apology yet for the scourge.
At a mass with about 15 000 priests marking the end of the Church's Year for Priests, Benedict pledged to "do everything possible" to stop the cases.
He said in a sun-drenched St Peter's Square: "And so it happened that, in this very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light, particularly the abuse of the little ones.
"We ... insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again.
The 83-year-old vowed before the white-clad priests from around the world: "In admitting men to priestly ministry and in their formation we will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey."
Vatican expert Bruno Bartoloni believes the head of the Roman Catholic Church "is trying to make something good come out of a bad thing."
For the pope, the scandals "were a shock, showing that past behaviours were to be condemned and that no one should speak in the language of truth."
The head of a US-based support group for victims of predator priests dismissed what she described as "vague one-sentence pledges" by the pope, saying "substantive structural and cultural change alters behaviour."
Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said in a statement: "Any Church promises of action on abuse and cover-up are inherently problematic because of the Church's ancient, unhealthy monarchical structure."
She said the pope cannot be expected to supervise some 5 000 bishops. "In practice, each bishop is the lord of his own kingdom, answerable to virtually no one."
Blaine added: "The real solution to the scandal must therefore involve reducing the power of bishops and increasing the power of secular authorities to safeguard children."