Pope Francis spoke about the recent report that says some 330,000 French children were abused by clergy.
Pope Francis has expressed personal shame at the sexual abuse of children by French Catholic clergy, after the scale of the problem was laid bare in a devastating report.
An independent commission on Tuesday revealed that French Catholic clergy had sexually abused around 216,000 youngsters since 1950, a "massive phenomenon" that was covered up by a "veil of silence".
The years-long inquiry and 2,500-page report came as the Catholic Church continues to face huge numbers of abuse claims and prosecutions across the world.
"I wish to express to the victims my sadness and pain for the trauma they have suffered," he said during his weekly audience at the Vatican on Wednesday.
"And also my shame, our shame, my shame for the inability of the Church for too long to put them at the centre of its concerns."
The report found that the "vast majority" of victims were pre-adolescent boys and their abusers were mainly priests, bishops, deacons and monks.
When claims against lay members of the Church such as teachers are included, the number of victims climbs to 330,000 since 1950, the report found.
"Until the early 2000s, the Catholic Church showed a profound and even cruel indifference towards the victims," commission chief Jean-Marc Sauve told a press conference Tuesday.
Sauve had already said on Sunday that a "minimum estimate" of 2,900 to 3,200 clergy members had sexually abused children in the French Church since 1950.
Yet only a handful of cases prompted disciplinary action under canonical law, let alone criminal prosecution.