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Pope Francis acknowledged Saturday that the Vatican has a 2,000-case backlog in processing clerical sex abuse cases and says criticism of the slow pace was justified.

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Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the others too will be replaced and that staffing in the office, which has a yearslong backlog of cases, would be strengthened after Francis recently approved hiring more officials.“The speed with which cases are handled is a serious matter and the Holy Father continues to encourage improvements in this area,” Burke told AP.

He also dispelled rumors that sex-abuse cases would no longer be handled by the congregation, saying the strengthened office would handle all cases submitted.

Worldwide, the allegations showed that local bishops sometimes knew about and covered up child sex abuse involving problem priests and triggered multi-million-dollar lawsuits, as well as several criminal prosecutions.

Expressing the Church's regret, and begging forgiveness, the Pope denounced the "sin of what happened, the sin of failing to help, the sin of covering up and denial, the sin of the abuse of power".

Pope Francis also asked bishops for "complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst"."In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to 'zero tolerance'."The pontiff himself has received mixed reviews on how the Vatican handles sex abuse.

Pope Francis has laid out procedures to oust bishops for negligence, if they mishandle investigations into alleged abuse.Collins quit because of what she said was the "unacceptable" level of resistance within the Vatican to implementing the group's proposals to better care for victims and protect children from priests who rape and molest them.Speaking to reporters while flying home Saturday from a trip to Portugal, Francis called Collins "a great woman" and said she was "a bit right" to complain about the slow pace in processing cases. But we are on the right path, as there were 2,000 cases backlogged," he said.ROME -- A founding member of a three-year-old commission set up by Pope Francis to protect minors from sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has quit, accusing the Vatican of “stonewalling” the commission.As CBS News correspondent Seth Doane reports, it is a very public blow to the Vatican on a very sensitive issue, and at the center of it all is a victim of sex abuse who says there’s cultural resistance to change in the church.Cases of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, nuns, and members of religious orders, and subsequent cover-ups, in the 20th and 21st centuries have led to numerous allegations, investigations, trials and convictions.

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