WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Leaders of Poland's Catholic Church apologized on Friday to the victims of child sex abuse by priests and admitted they have long ignored the problem.
Abuse victims and experts on child psychiatry and sex abuse from Germany and the U.S. attended a conference behind closed doors in Krakow. The first day closed with a Mass held in apology.
"Ashamed and repentant, we ask for forgiveness," said presiding Bishop Piotr Libera. "We ask God and we ask people who were hurt by the priests."
He said Poland's bishops "too often" instead of protecting the child gave credence to the "negation coming from the perpetrators of the crime of pedophilia" and to their insistence that the child was "imposing itself and trying to seduce."
The media were only allowed to attend the opening and the evening apology Mass. Friday was the first day of the two-day conference led by Krakow Archbishop Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was previously personal secretary to Pope John Paul II.
Some 30 priests have been convicted of pedophilia in Poland, and a few of them are serving prison terms.