SYDNEY (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI offered a historic full apology for child sex abuse by predatory Australian priests Saturday, saying he was "deeply sorry" and calling for those guilty of the "evil" to be punished. The Pope apologised before leading more than 200,000 Catholic pilgrims in a candlelight vigil a day ahead of an even bigger papal mass to cap off a week of Catholic World Youth Day celebrations here. During a mass for local clergy, the Pope strayed from a prepared speech to express his shame and make his first direct and explicit apology to victims of some corrupt clergymen in Australia. "I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them that, as their pastor, I too share in their suffering," he said in a line absent from the prepared text of his homily circulated to journalists. His remarks to Australian bishops, seminarians and novices in Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral were his strongest yet in confronting the scourge that has rocked the Catholic church globally. "Here I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious (order members) in this country," Benedict said. The World Youth Day festivities have been partly overshadowed by pressure from victims for a full apology amid claims the church had not adequately addressed the issue over recent years. But groups representing Australian victims said the Pope's words alone were not enough and that he should have apologised in front of sex abuse victims, not priests. "Sorry may be a start but we want to see a lot more," said Chris MacIsaac, spokeswoman for the victims' group Broken Rites, adding that she wanted victims to be treated fairly and not to be "re-abused by church authorities." Helen Last from the clergy sexual abuse advocacy group In Good Faith and Associates, said the Pope's words would not ease decades of victims' suffering. "It is just a drop in a bucket " a bucket full of tears that all of us who work with victims have been sitting with for 25 to 30 years in Australia," she said. "It's not really a hands-on response is it? It's just a few words from the CEO." In a visit to the United States in April, the Pope spoke of the shame and suffering that abusive priests had brought upon the church, but stopped short of a direct apology. In Sydney, he went further, calling also for compensation for sex abuse victims, ordering Australian clergy to help them recover from their ordeals and demanding that abuser priests be punished. "Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice," he said. "These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation." The 81-year-old Pope acknowledged that the abuse had "caused great pain" to victims and also damaged the church's standing. Reminding Catholic clergy of their vows of celibacy, he said it was an "urgent priority" to promote a safer environment for young people. The pontiff said he hoped dealing effectively with the sex abuse issue would purify the church and promote healing and reconciliation. The church in Australia, as in many other parts of the world, has faced strong criticism over allegations it tried to cover up abuses. Australian bishops apologised for past abuses in 2002. No official figures are available, but support groups estimate there are thousands of Australian victims. Broken Rites says 107 Catholic priests and religious brothers have been sentenced in Australian courts on sex charges. Some sex abuse victims attended a rally where 500 protesters opposed to the Pope's stance on contraception and homosexuality hurled condoms at pilgrims marching through Sydney's gay district on their way to the evening prayer vigil. A day ahead of his final World Youth Day mass that organisers say will draw up to 500,000 worshippers, the pontiff also lamented growing secularism around the world that has left the church fighting flagging membership. "We find ourselves immersed in a world that would set God aside," he said. The pontiff later presided over the vigil at a racecourse featuring musical and dance performances and readings by pilgrims amid a huge sea of flickering candles.