Pope Benedict XVI drew the Catholic Church's Year for Priests to an official close Friday with another apology for the abuse of children by Catholic priests.
Addressing 15,000 priests from around the world in St. Peter's Square yesterday, the pope begged God's forgiveness for the "abuse of the little ones" as he admitted that a year intended to celebrate priests ended quite differently.
"In the very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light," he said.
Contrary to expectations, the pope did not announce any new measures to address sexual abuse within the Church but instead spoke of need for clergy to reflect on the "audacity of God" in trusting men to be priests, and the need for clergy to look to "the Shepherd's rod, the rod with which he protects the faith against those who falsify it."
The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, the Most Rev. Vincent Nichols, delivered an homily in Westminster Cathedral to mark the end of the Year for Priests in which he admitted that it had been a "tumultuous" year.
"Rarely has such public attention been given to our failings – we priests and bishops – particularly our failures to ensure the safety of children in our care in past years," he said. "We acknowledge these failures, with realism, without exaggeration, and with recognition of the depth of damage done by, in Pope Benedict's phrase, 'the sin within the Church.'
"We keep those who have suffered always in our thoughts and prayers."