VATICAN CITY, July 7 (UPI) -- Pope Francis met with six victims of clergy sexual abuse at the Vatican guesthouse on Monday.
During a Mass celebrated in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae with the group of six people, the Holy Father asked for their forgiveness.
"Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness.
"I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves. This led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused and it endangered other minors who were at risk.
"On the other hand, the courage that you and others have shown by speaking up, by telling the truth, was a service of love, since for us it shed light on a terrible darkness in the life of the Church. There is no place in the Church's ministry for those who commit these abuses, and I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not. All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable."
Vatican spokesman Rev. Frederico Lombardi told reporters that Pope Francis met privately with each of the six people, three men and three women from Britain, Ireland and Germany, for about 30 minutes.
Monday's meeting coincides with the second gathering of the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors, convened to advise Pope Francis on the Church's measures to protect children.
The Holy Father has promised a "zero tolerance" approach to clergy abuse.