Pope Francis today expressed "shame" for himself and the Roman Catholic Church for the scale of child sexual abuse within the church in France and acknowledged failures in putting the needs of victims first.

The pontiff spoke during his regular Wednesday audience at the Vatican about a report released yesterday estimating 330,000 French children were abused by clergy and other church authority figures dating back to 1950.

The pope expressed his sadness and pain to the victims for the trauma they suffered, and added it is also "our shame, my shame, for the incapacity of the church for too long to put them at the centre of its concerns."

In the address, the Pope called on bishops and other leaders to ensure that such events are no longer repeated.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Tuesday that Pope Francis learned about the report's findings "with sorrow."

"His thoughts go in first place to the victims, with a profound sadness for their wounds and gratitude for their courage to speak out," Bruni said.

Francis issued a groundbreaking church law in May 2019 that requires all Catholic priests and nuns to report clergy sex abuse and cover-ups involving their superiors to church authorities. He said in June that every bishop must take responsibility for the "catastrophe" of the sex abuse crisis.


With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press.