Pope Benedict XVI, leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, has told Australians he is deeply sorry for the sexual abuse of children by some Catholic priests and has said that those responsible must be brought to justice.
He was speaking at a gathering of bishops during his visit to Australia, primarily connected with the Word Youth Day event.
He said the deeds of abusive clergymen were a great betrayal of trust, which caused suffering to the victims and their families and damaged the Catholic Church.
There has been a mixed response to his words, with some welcoming them and others saying that they do not go far enough.
"Sorry is not enough. Victims want action, not just words," the campaigning group Broken Rites group said in a statement.
The Pope is being urged to meet and talk with the those who have been abused and their relatives, as he did in the United States, and to promise concrete measures to end what many regard as a covering up of the issue of sexual abuse within the Church.
Speaking during mass at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, the pontiff declared: "I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured.These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation. Those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice."
Broken Rites says there have been 107 convictions against Catholic clergy on sex charges in Australia. But they estimate the number of victims to be in the thousands.