SYDNEY, Australia Pope Benedict XVI apologized Saturday to victims of child sex abuse by Roman Catholic clergy, describing their acts as "evil" and a grave betrayal of trust.
"I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious in this country," Benedict said during an address at a Mass in Australia.
"I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured," the pope said. "I assure them as their pastor that I too share in their suffering."
He said those responsible for these "evils must be brought to justice."
Support groups for victims of church abuse in Australia, whose numbers are not known but who activists say are in the thousands, had demanded the pope make a full and open apology for clergy abuse and do more to prevent future abuse.
The pontiff is in Australia to lead hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in the church's World Youth Day, a global celebration meant to inspire a new generation of Catholics.
There was no immediate word whether Benedict would meet with victims of clergy abuse, as he did during his trip to the United States in April, when he also expressed his shame for the scandal.
On Friday, the 81-year-old pontiff 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, the pontiff said there were those in who were using religion "as a cause of division rather than a force for unity" in a 40-minute exchange with Australian Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist leaders in Sydney.
"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 in the Gothic surrounds of Australia's largest Roman Catholic cathedral 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 came 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 pope also blessed the opening scene of a live reenactment Friday of the stations of the cross the Bible's depiction of Christ's last days that was played out through Sydney, with some of the city's most recognizable landmarks in the backdrop.
Pilgrims lined the streets to watch the recreation, which stretched over three hours and included often stark scenes of brutality toward Jesus, including his being nailed to a cross. As night fell on a clear but cold midwinter day, many watching clutched each other and wept openly. Organizers estimated the live television audience for one of the festival's most dramatic events topped 500 million.
Benedict met later with a group of disadvantaged youth at a Catholic university campus, where he decried "the cult of material possessions."
"Our materialistic society," he said, too often sought happiness "by acquiring as many possessions and luxuries as we can."