Pope to sex abuse victims: I beg your forgiveness

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis has begged forgiveness from the victims of clergy sex abuse in his first meeting with several abuse survivors.

The Vatican quoted Francis as expressing `'sorrow" in his homily at a private Mass with six victims Monday for the `'sins and grave crimes" of clerical sex abuse against them.

Added the pope: `'I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately" to sex abuse reports.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Pope Francis held his first meeting with a group of Catholics who were sexually abused as youths by clergy, listening to them for hours Monday at his Vatican residence.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said two Irish, two British and two German victims met separately Monday for about 30 minutes apiece with Francis at the Vatican hotel where the pope resides.

None of the victims wanted to speak with reporters, Lombardi said. Francis had already greeted the group -- three men and three women, all adults -- Sunday evening while the six were dining at the hotel.

An Irish survivor of sex abuse by clergy, Marie Collins, has already spent time at the Vatican this year because she serves on a panel set up by Francis to help him deal with the scandals staining the church's reputation in many countries, and would likely have had opportunities to meet with the pontiff.

Francis showed `'intense and careful" interest toward the six when meeting them, Lombardi said. The Vatican said it would make public the text of the pope's homily at a Mass he celebrated with his guests in attendance.

Other abuse survivors not at the meeting predicted the encounter would likely do nothing about their complaints the Vatican has failed to punish bishops and other prelates who systemically covered up the abuse of minors. A German survivor advocacy spokesman, Norbert Denef, called Monday's meeting `'nothing more than a PR event."

Pope Benedict met several times with abuse victims, starting in 2008. Francis, on his trip back from the Middle East in May, promised he would meet with victims this summer.

Lombardi said the criticism wasn't surprising. `'This body of opinion has always not been ready to understand the positive attention of this pope and of the previous pope."

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