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Pope Francis slammed the "complicity" of Catholic Church leaders in covering up sexual abuse on Monday, after his first meeting with victims of paedophile priests.
The pope told the six he was sorry for "the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you".
"So much time hidden, camouflaged, with a complicity that cannot be explained."
"I know that these wounds are a source of deep and often unrelenting emotional and spiritual pain, and even despair. Some have even had to deal with the terrible tragedy of the death of a loved one by suicide," he added.
"The deaths of these so beloved children of God weigh upon the heart and my conscience and that of the whole Church," the 77-year-old said.