VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Pope John Paul II told visiting American bishops to pray for clerics and their victims involved in sex scandals in the United States and said the incidents risk undermining public trust in priests.

The pope told bishops from Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico he shared the ''sadness and disappointment when those entrusted with the sacred ministry fail in their commitment.''

In one of the most notorious cases, the archbishop of Santa Fe, N.M., Robert F. Sanchez, resigned in April after seven women alleged they had sex with him, some while in their teens.

''These failures are tragic for the victims and the clerics involved,'' the pope said Tuesday, according to a text of his comments released Wednesday by the Vatican. ''We must pray ardently for all those affected by this misconduct, knowing that our Redeemer is close to those who suffer injustice from the hands of others, and his mercy reaches the contrite of heart.''

No specific cases were mentioned in the pope's comments released by the Vatican.m