Pope Benedict XVI offered a historic full apology for child sex abuse by predatory priests Saturday, saying he was “deeply sorry” and calling for those guilty of the “evil” to be punished.

The pope strayed from a prepared speech to express his shame and make his first direct and explicit apology to victims of corrupt clergymen in Australia, during a mass for Australian clergy in Sydney.

“I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them that, as their pastor, I too share in their suffering,” he said in a line absent from the prepared text of his homily circulated to journalists.

His remarks to Catholic bishops, seminarians and novices in Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral were the strongest he has used in confronting the scourge which has rocked the Catholic church globally.

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