Pope Francis leads conference on sex abuse at Vatican

Another survivor from Chile said the church's leaders had discredited victims and protected the priests who abused them.

The Vatican insists no allegation of sexual abuse was lodged until a year ago, but local Church officials said they raised the alarm about inappropriate behaviour in 2015.

"Mothers and fathers have called us to account, for they simply can not comprehend how we as bishops and religious superiors have often been blinded to the scope and damage of sexual abuse of minors", he said.

Vatican officials were "trampling on the rights of victims" by deliberately canceling or overriding procedures for investigating child abuse, according to Marx.

At the centre of controversy himself over ignoring complaints of sexual abuse, Cardinal Gracias acknowledged the global scale of the child sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church and said that it was "unacceptable" that some Asian and African bishops are refusing to admit "clerical paedophilia" as an issue.

The cardinal apologised personally in September to thousands of victims of sexual assault by clergy in the German Church, saying perpetrators must be brought to justice.

The summit - "The Protection of Minors in the Church" - is being attended by the heads of all national bishops' conferences from over 130 countries, the BBC reported.

The report's authors said the figure was "the tip of the iceberg".

"Many of our people, not just those abused or parents of the abused, but the faithful at large are wondering if we the leaders of the Church fully understand this reality, particularly when they see little care given to abused children, or even worse, when it is covered up to protect the abuser or the institution", he said.

"Files that could have documented the awful deeds and named those responsible were destroyed, or not even created", German Cardinal Reinhard Marx said in a speech to a landmark Vatican summit on tackling pedophilia in the clergy. "Since then I, who loved coloring books and doing somersaults on the grass, have not existed", she said.

Many advocates say the Church must let civil authorities investigate and prosecute priests who molest or rape children. It is a timely summit and one that hits home for the people of the province.

Many doubt that mandatory reporting requirement will happen given the death penalties attached to sexual crimes in some countries where the church operates.

The nun, who had worked in Africa, Europe and North America, said church leaders should discuss the reasons for keeping abusers among the clergy and whether seminaries are healthy for young boys.

"Yes, we proclaim the Ten Commandments and "parade ourselves" as being the custodians of moral standards-values and good behavior in society". Hypocrites at times? Yes!

"I would hope that any bishop who is aware of this kind of misbehavior would certainly make that known to the Holy See, and not feel that, in any way, we should try and cover it up or turn a blind eye", said Cardinal Sean O'Malley, of Boston.

She told the pope, sitting near her at the conference, that she admired him because he was "humble enough to change your mind", apologise and take action after he initially defended a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse. The bishop later resigned. "The silence, the carrying of the secrets in the hearts of the perpetrators, the length of the abuses and the constant transfers of perpetrators are unimaginable", she said.

"This storm will not pass", Sister Veronica Openibo told the prelates.

On her first trip to the Vatican, Leona Huggins was gripped with fear and shame each time she saw a priest. "We have seriously clouded the grace of the Christ-mission", Sr Openibo said.

"We have heard these words before", survivors' network SNAP said in a statement Thursday. "It is the only way, if you want us to believe you when you say "from now on we will no longer tolerate cover-ups".