Pope Benedict XVI, arriving in the US for his controversial tour which faces protests from gay Catholics, has apologised for the Church’s child abuse scandals.

The Pope was greeted on his arrival on Tuesday by President George W Bush, the first lady Laura and their daughter Jenna.

While flying to the US he answered question from reporters on the Alitalia flight and

tackled the issue of the numerous paedophile sex scandals that have haunted the Catholic Church in recent years, especially in the US.

He said that he was “deeply ashamed” and would strive to ensure that paedophiles were rooted out of the Catholic Church,

“It is a great suffering for the church in the United States and for the church in general and for me personally that this could happen,” he said on the matter, adding that, “It is difficult for me to understand how it was possible that priests betray in this way their mission… to these children.”

While he has been criticised for his opposition to same-sex marriage, the Pontiff did appear to acknowledge that paedophilia should not be linked to homosexuality.

“I do not wish to talk at this moment about homosexuality, but about paedophilia, which is another thing,” he told the reporters.

This is Benedict’s first visit to the US. Gay Catholic groups plan to mount protests in New York and Washington against the Pope’s description of same-sex marriage as a threat to world peace.

The Catholic Church is committed to a policy of opposing gay and lesbian marriage.

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