VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI referred Thursday to "attacks" on the church stemming from the clerical sexual abuse scandal and said "we Christians" must repent for sins and recognize mistakes, news reports said.
Benedict made the off-the-cuff comments during his homily at a Mass inside the Vatican for members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the ANSA news agency reported.
Victims of clerical abuse have long demanded that Benedict take more personal responsibility for clerical abuse. Those demands have intensified in recent weeks as the Vatican and Benedict himself have been accused of negligence in handling some cases.
"I must say, we Christians, even in recent times, have often avoided the word 'repent,' which seemed too tough," ANSA quoted Benedict as saying. "But now under attack from the world, which has been telling us about our sins ... we realize that it's necessary to repent, in other words, recognize what is wrong in our lives."
The Vatican didn't immediately provide a text of the comments, the Mass wasn't broadcast and a Vatican spokesman said he couldn't immediately confirm the remarks.
ANSA said Benedict continued: "Open ourselves to forgiveness ... and let ourselves be transformed. The pain of repentance, which is a purification and transformation, is a grace because it is renewal and the work of divine mercy."
It was Benedict's fullest allusion to the scandal since he sent a letter to the Irish faithful March 20 concerning the decades of abuse and church-mandated cover-up in that country.