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  • A man carries a toy version of Pope Francis, Philadelphia, Sept. 27, 2015.

    A man carries a toy version of Pope Francis, Philadelphia, Sept. 27, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 27 September 2015

"Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children," the pontiff said.

During a final mass in Philadelphia Sunday to conclude his U.S. tour, Pope Francis committed to not allow cases of child abuses by clergy to go unpunished.

"I pledge to you that we will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead," Pope Francis said in the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, where hundreds of thousands gathered for the services. "Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children."

The Pope met with victims of sexual abuse earlier in the day – the second time he has done so since the beginning of his mandate.

“I am taking engraved in my heart the suffering and the pain of the children that were sexually abused by clerics, it keeps overwhelming me with shame the idea that the persons who were in charge of the tender care of these children, raped them and harmed them this way,” the pope said.

RELATED: Pope Highlights Core US Failures in Congress

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been in the middle of a massive scandal involving child abuse, leading to various investigations. Monsignor William Lynn became the first U.S. church official to be convicted of covering up abuses by other priests in his charge.

The pope agreed to create a new Vatican court to probe bishops who have failed to protect children. He also accepted the resignations of three U.S. bishops accused of mishandling cases.

The pope's visit came at a historic time after a landmark tour of Cuba, where Pope Francis was a key international voice backing calls for improved relations between Havana and Washington, including facilitating high-level meetings between the two countries.

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