In a letter to all Catholics, Pope Francis condemned what he called the “crime” of sexual abuse and cover-ups of those crimes.

“With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives,” Francis wrote.

“We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”

The pope’s letter comes a week after a Pennsylvania grand jury released a 900-page report about sexual abuse by clergy. The report reviewed Catholic church records of some 1,000 victims who claimed to have been abused by about 300 priest over the span of 80 years in Pennsylvania.

The report said that victims were both boys and girls, from prepubescent children to teenagers, “”But all of them were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all.”

The letter also comes after news broke that a cardinal, retired archbishop of Washington Theodore McCarrick, allegedly sexually abused and harassed minors and adult seminarians.

Francis said in his letter that “no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.”

“While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit,” the pope said.

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“If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history.”

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