VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI begged forgiveness Friday from abuse victims for the sins of priests and promised to “do everything possible” to ensure that Roman Catholic clerics don’t rape or molest children ever again.

Benedict’s pledge was similar to comments he has made in the past. But it was uttered in the highly symbolic setting of a Mass in St. Peter’s Square, concelebrated by 15,000 white-robed priests, all marking the end of the Vatican’s Year of the Priest — a year marred by revelations of hundreds of new cases of clerical abuse, cover-ups in several nations and Vatican inaction to root out pedophiles.

In his homily, Benedict lamented that during what should have been a year of joy for the priesthood the “sins of priests came to light — particularly the abuse of the little ones.”

“We too insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again,” he said.

He said in admitting men into the priesthood and in forming them as clergymen “we will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey, so that the Lord watch over them in troubled situations.”

 

 

Victims groups who had been hoping for a mea culpa and clear-cut action plan to protect children weren’t satisfied.

“A promise is nominally more helpful than an apology. But promises are usually easy to make, hard to keep and broken often if there’s no oversight or penalties,” said Barbara Blaine, of the U.S. victims group SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.