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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis begged forgiveness Monday from the victims of clergy sex abuse as he held his first meeting with several abuse survivors. He also promised to hold bishops accountable for the protection of minors.

The pope celebrated a Mass with six survivors at his Vatican hotel Monday, but in his homily he didn't spell out whether that accountability would include firing bishops and other prelates who systematically shuffled pedophile priests from parish to parish to avoid bringing shame upon the Catholic Church.

Victims' advocacy groups around the world have pressed the Vatican for decades to severely discipline any complicit church hierarchy.

Even while the pope spent his morning with the three men and three women, listening to their stories one by one, several victims' groups blasted the meetings as being "a PR event."

The Vatican quoted Francis as expressing personal "sorrow" in his homily at the private Mass with the victims for the "sins and grave crimes" of clerical sex abuse against them.

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