Pope Francis is asking for forgiveness from the victims of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church.
The BBC has his statement made Friday. “I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests — quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests — to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children."
NPR is calling this "his strongest words to date" on the issue that continues to hang over the church.
Vatican Radio reports his statement was made during a meeting with a Catholic children's non-governmental organization. "In his address, he said that the church is aware of this damage. A damage that he describes is both personal and moral carried out by men of the church."
Last month, Pope Francis named eight people to a group aimed at helping the church face this issue. NBC reports, "Among them is an Irishwoman who was a victim of sexual abuse as a child."
His words Friday marked a clear change in tone from previous statements.
Earlier in March, he was reportedly quoted in Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra saying: "The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that has moved with transparency and responsibility. No one has done more. And yet the church is the only one that has been attacked." (Via Wikimedia Commons / russavia, Wikimedia Commons / Casa Rosada)
CNN reports the advocates for sexual abuse victims slammed that statement. Among the vocal critics was the United Nations.
Earlier this year, a U.N. committee criticized the Vatican and put pressure on the pope to make changes. That said, it's not just in the hands of the pope.
A regional director for SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told CNN, "Hopefully what this report will do is power individual nations to make more robust laws to hold the Vatican accountable."
What the Vatican's appointed group will do remains to be seen. Pope Francis added Friday, "We will not take one step backward" in regards to the problem of sexual abuse.