Pope offers apology in clergy sex scandal

Pope Benedict XVI says he is deeply sorry for the pain and suffering caused to victims of clergy sex abuse.

The pope addressed a Mass Saturday attended by Australia's Roman Catholic bishops and seminarians, and said he wanted to acknowledge the “shame that we have all felt as result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious” in Australia.

He earlier told representatives of Islam and other faiths that they must unite to combat religion's role in “sinister and indiscriminate” violence.

Without mentioning terrorism directly, in a 40-minute exchange with Australian Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist leaders in Sydney, the pontiff said there were those who were using religion “as a cause of division rather than a force for unity.”

“In a world threatened by sinister and indiscriminate forms of violence, the unified voice of religious people urges nations and communities to resolve conflicts through peaceful means and with full regard for human dignity,” Benedict told the leaders, gathered as part of the church's global youth festival.

Harmony between religion and public life is especially important in these days, he said.

The remarks come as the Vatican tries to cool lingering anger among Muslims over a speech Benedict gave in 2006 that appeared to associate Islam with violence. Benedict quickly apologized for the link.

In reply, the delegates from the other creeds welcomed the pope's inclusionary stance, though Sheikh Mohamadu Saleem of the National Imams Council of Australia noted discrimination between faiths was still a problem.

Muslims should be more understanding of other religions, he said, adding: “At the same time, a significant amount of the Christian groups and other religions must overcome their prejudice to Muslims and Islam.”

The meeting was one element of a busy schedule for the 81-year-old pontiff at World Youth Day, which organizers say has attracted more than 200,000 young Catholics to Australia's largest city. Two days into his four-day official program, the pope looked fit and energetic.

Benedict, who last week said his church was in “crisis” in the West because many had lost faith in God, held a separate meeting with deputies of Christian denominations.

He urged them to cooperate against secularism and apathy – saying those shared problems were greater than any differences among them.

On Saturday, the pope will spend part of the day with bishops and other Catholic officials.