Pope Francis has begged forgiveness from the victims of sexual abuse by priests, at his first meeting with the victims since his election.
He condemned the Church’s “complicity” in hiding the abuse and said it must “weep and make reparation” for the “grave crimes” committed by clerics.
He met the six victims, two each from Ireland, Britain and Germany, after a private morning Mass in the Vatican.
The Church has been criticised after a series of abuse scandals worldwide.
At a press conference on Monday, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Pope Francis had spent half an hour with each of the victims who visited him. He said the Pope had also greeted the group at a dinner on Sunday evening.
The Pope said the abuses had been “camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained”.
He apologised to victims for the “sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse”, which he described as “a sacrilegious cult” that insulted God.
He added: “I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately [to reports of sex abuse].”
None of the six victims made public statements after their discussions with the Pope, the BBC’s Alan Johnston in Rome reports.