Pope Francis has expressed "shame and sorrow" over the latest paedophile priest scandal and vowed to "root out this tragic horror".
The Vatican said Francis was "on the side" of victims following recent revelations that 301 "predator priests" operated in the US state of Pennsylvania over the last seven decades, in many cases having their crimes covered up by the Church.
In a statement the Vatican said: "Victims should know that the pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the Church wants to listen to them, to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent.
"There are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow."
Francis had faced mounting criticism in the United States for remaining silent for two days after the 884-page report into the Pennsylvania scandal was released on Tuesday.
On Wednesday a Vatican official had said there was "no comment".
The report identified around 1,000 victims and indicated there may be thousands more.
In its statement the Vatican said: "The Holy Father understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and the spirit of believers."
Only two of the Pennsylvania priests were charged as a result of the investigation, due to the state’s statute of limitations running out, but the Vatican said abusers must still be held accountable.
It said: "The Church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur."
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More than 100 of the priests are dead, and many others have already retired or been dismissed.
The catalogue of crimes included one case in which five sisters from the same family were abused by the same priest.
Another clergyman accused of abuse was given a reference by his diocese to get a job driving a train at Walt Disney World.
According to the report priests "weaponised faith" by telling children the abuse would mean they went to Heaven, and that they would "go to Hell" if they told anyone what had happened.