The head of the Roman Catholic church in Australia, Archbishop George Pell, has used his Christmas message to apologise to all those who've suffered at the hands of Christian priests and teachers.
He said he, too, felt shock and shame at the revelations of such crimes and wrongdoing.
He says it goes against the teachings of Jesus and Christians need faith in God's goodness and love to cope with these disasters.
Where there is evil, there is less peace, says the Archbishop.
"My heart and the heart of all believers, of all people, will go out to all those who cannot find peace at this time, especially those who have suffered at the hands of fellow Christians, Christian officials, priests, religious, teachers," he said.
"I am deeply sorry this has happened".
Cardinal Pell's message comes after the Australian Government this year announced a royal commission to investigate child abuse in Australia, including in the Catholic Church.
Wayne Chamley, a spokesman for victims support group Broken Rites, has welcomed the apology.
"It's pleasing that he's opening up his heart to these people," he told the ABC.
"They seem to now appreciate the scale of it.
"I don't think we've seen a statement in the past which was reflecting on the scale of what's gone on."
But another group - Adults Surviving Child Abuse - says the Catholic Church needed to be more transparent and forthright about its role in the abuse of children over the years.