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Pope Francis says Church hasn't known 'how to listen'

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Panama City (AFP)

Pope Francis acknowledged Saturday that the Catholic Church was "wounded by sin" in a message addressed to priests and seminarians reeling from sexual abuse scandals and coverups.

In a mass that he officiated at the centuries-old Cathedral of Santa Maria La Antigua in Panama City, Francis warned of the "weariness of hope to see a Church wounded by sin that often has not heard so many screams."

It was the Argentine pontiff's first reference to the sex abuse scandals rocking the Church since he arrived in Panama on Wednesday for a global gathering of young Catholics.

It comes as he prepares to meet senior bishops from around the world in Rome next month to deal with widespread clergy sex abuse of children and young people.

His spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said next month's meeting would be a unique chance to provide bishops with "concrete measures" to tackle the "terrible plague."

After the mass in the basilica -- home of the first diocese on the American mainland -- the pope and the archbishop of Panama, Cardinal Jose Domingo Ulloa, will host a lunch for 10 young people of different nationalities attending World Youth Day, a tradition at the global gatherings, held every three years.

Francis will preside over an evening vigil with an expected crowd of 200,000 pilgrims at the three-kilometer long (two-mile) Metro Park on the outskirts of Panama.

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