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VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Francis has asked for forgiveness from people who were sexually abused by priests, and has vowed that there will be no going back in the fight to protect children.

Francis spoke off the cuff Friday to members of the International Catholic Child Bureau, a French Catholic network of organizations that aim to protect children's rights.

In his remarks, reported by Vatican Radio, Francis said he felt "called to take it upon myself" and ask forgiveness for all the evil that some priests had committed against children.

He said: "We don't want to take a step back in dealing with this problem and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, I think we must be even stronger! You don't play around with the lives of children."

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