ROME (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Monday branded sexual abuse of children by priests a crime comparable to a "satanic Mass" and said he would show zero tolerance for anyone in the Catholic Church who abused children, including bishops.
Speaking to reporters on the plane taking him back from a visit to the Middle East, the pope also announced that he would have his first meeting with a group of abuse victims at the Vatican early next month.
Asked about whether he would move against bishops who were accused of sexual abuse, he said "there will be no daddy's boys" and no privileges, adding that three bishops were currently under investigation.
"Sexual abuse is such an ugly crime ... because a priest who does this betrays the body of the Lord. It is like a satanic Mass," he said in some of the toughest language he has used on a crisis which has rocked the Church for more than a decade." We must go ahead with zero tolerance" he said.
He said he would hold a meeting with around eight victims of sexual abuse at the Vatican early next month. It would be attended by Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley of Boston, who is head of a commission set up to study ways of dealing with the crisis.
Francis, who spoke to reporters for nearly an hour, said the victims, several from Europe, would attend his morning Mass and then he would meet with them.
It will be the first time for Francis to meet sexual abuse victims since his election in March, 2013.
Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Eric Walsh