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Pope asks victims' forgiveness; vows to protect children

VATICAN CITY - Addressing the clerical sex 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.

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 celebrated by 15,000 priests from around the world 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, 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.

"We, too, 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," he said.

Victims groups who had been hoping for a papal mea culpa and clear-cut action plan to protect children weren't satisfied.

"A promise is nominally more helpful than an apology. But promises are usually easy to make, hard to keep and broken often if there's no oversight or penalties," said Barbara Blaine, president of the U.S. victims group SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

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