PHILADELPHIA, March 9 (UPI) -- Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, apologized to Catholics on Ash Wednesday for the church's failure to protect children from abuse by priests.
Rigali, in his homily at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, told a congregation of about 1,000 the church would make new efforts to "prevent these evil acts," the Philadelphia Daily News reported. His apology came a day after the archdiocese announced the suspension of 21 priests because of abuse allegations.
"Whoever harms a child must remember the words of Jesus: It would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea," Rigali said.
He asked the congregation to pray for victims of abuse and for "faithful priests who have suffered" from the stigma the abuse scandal has cast on the church.
The church has not identified the priests, saying announcements would be made to individual congregations at services this week.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests picketed outside the cathedral, urging the church to identify the 21 priests.
"We're going to judge Cardinal Rigali by his actions, not by his words," SNAP President Barbara Blaine said.