Pope Benedict XVI called for the Church on Monday to scrutinise itself and root out the truth about mistakes made in order to prevent the paedophile abuse crisis from ever happening again.
"We have to ask ourselves what was wrong in our preaching, in our entire way of configuring the Christian being, to allow something like that to happen," the pope said during a Christmas audience with the Roman Curia.
In his speech the pontiff spoke of the "shame" the abuse crisis had caused the Church and added "we have take this humiliation as an exhortation for the truth and a call for renewal."
The pontiff said the abuse of children by priests was "unimaginable," causing "deep wounds" in infancy that "scar" the victims for the rest of their lives.
However, Benedict said the fault lay not only with the Church but also with the "context of our times."
"There exists a market of pornography regarding children that seems to be increasingly accepted as normal by society," he added.
The publication in Ireland last year of a shocking report that documented hundreds of cases of child abuse by priests and systematic cover-up efforts by senior clergy plunged the Church into its worst crisis in many years.
There followed hundreds other revelations across the United States and Europe.