Pope Francis has admitted that he made an error early in his papacy in being too lenient with a priest who had sexually abused young people.

The Pope made the admission last week during a meeting with the child protection advisory commission he set up in 2014.

It was his first meeting with the group.

Francis was referring to the case of Mauro Inzoli, an Italian priest whom Benedict XVI laicised and Francis returned to the priestly state. Inzoli was later convicted of abusing five boys.

The Pope said: “I was new [in the papacy], I did not understand these things well and chose the more benevolent of the two sentences, but after two years the priest had a relapse. I learned from this.”

He said he would never pardon any priest proven to be guilty of abuse. “Why? Simply because the person who does this [sexually abuses minors] is sick. It is a sickness.”

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