Pope Francis on Wednesday told U.S. Roman Catholic bishops that crimes of sexual abuse of minors by clergy should never be repeated, acknowledging the damage caused by years of scandal in the U.S. Catholic Church.

In the remarks, delivered at Saint Matthews Cathedral in Washington on the first full day of his visit to the United States, the pope did not utter the words "sexual abuse" but referred to the scandal by talking about "difficult moments" and providing help for victims.

"I know how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you, and I have supported your generous commitment to bring healing to victims ... and to work to ensure that such crimes will never be repeated," Francis told the bishops, who applauded.