London: The leaders of the five million Roman Catholics in England and Wales offered a full apology on Thursday for the child abuse scandals that have rocked the church and said there were "no excuses".
They said the crimes carried out by some priests and religious figures had brought "deep shame" to the whole Catholic Church.
A joint statement issued by Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols on behalf of the bishops at the Bishops` Conference of England and Wales described the child abuse within the Church as a "profound scandal".
"They bring deep shame to the whole church. But shame is not enough. The abuse of children is a grievous sin against God," it said.
"Therefore we focus not on shame but on our sorrow for these sins.
"They are the personal sins of only a very few. But we are bound together in the Body of Christ and, therefore, their sins touch us all.
"We express our heartfelt apology and deep sorrow to those who have suffered abuse, those who have felt ignored, disbelieved or betrayed.
"We ask their pardon, and the pardon of God for these terrible deeds done in our midst. There can be no excuses."
The Catholic Church in England and Wales has been regarded as a model of how to respond to the abuse of crisis, having addressed child abuse in two reports a decade ago. It also has a strict code to safeguard children.
The statement was issued as Pope Benedict XVI officially accepted the resignation of Irish bishop James Moriarty over the cover-up of clerical abuse of children.
Moriarty apologised to victims of abuse and said he should have challenged the culture of secrecy in the Church.