Pope Francis on Monday pledged zero tolerance and pleaded for forgiveness from a group of sex abuse victims invited to the Vatican.

This was the first meeting of its kind during Francis’ papacy, and during his homily the pontiff decried the “toxic” effect that decades of clergy abuse has had on the church and compared the abusers to people having joined a “sacrilegious cult.”

“There is no place in the Church’s ministry for those who commit these abuses, and I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not,” Francis said. “Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness.”

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