Child Sex Abuse by Priests
Australian Roman Catholic Church admits child sex abuses. Reuters

The Roman Catholic Church in the Australian state of Victoria has admitted to hundreds of child sex abuse cases by church officials, including priests and church workers, dating back to the 1930s.

In a submission to a Victorian parliamentary inquiry, the church confirmed it knew of 620 cases of sexual abuse. Another 45 cases are being investigated by church authorities.

The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, described the numbers as "shocking and shameful" and extended the full cooperation of the church to the inquiry.

"We have been open about the horrific abuse that has occurred in Victoria and elsewhere," said Hart.

"It is shocking and shameful that this abuse, with its dramatic impact on those who were abused and their families, was committed by Catholic priests, religious and church workers.

"This submission shows how the church of today is committed to facing up to the truth and to not disguising, diminishing or avoiding the actions of those who have betrayed a sacred trust."

The church revealed that a large number of the cases related to abuse that took place between the 1960s and 1980s.

This is the first time the church has publicly released figures that do not include cases where the victims have sought legal redress.

Many of the cases reported were in the Ballarat and Mortlake dioceses in Victoria, and in the Oakleigh and Rupertswood dioceses.

"We look to this inquiry to assist the healing of those who have been abused, to examine the broad context of the church's response, especially over the last 16 years, and to make recommendations to enhance the care for victims and preventative measures that are now in place."

However, campaign groups believe the true number of victims could be as high as 10,000 in Victoria alone.

Child sex abuses involving Roman Catholic priests have hit the headlines in Australia in recent years.

During a visit to Australia in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI met several victims and made a public apology for the abuse.