The Roman Catholic Church in Australia's state of Victoria has admitted that hundreds of children have been sexually abused since the 1930s.
The Australian Church has confirmed to a parliament inquiry that approximately 620 children have been victims of church officials, including priests and church workers, The Telegraph reported.
Chrissie Foster, whose two daughters were raped by their parish priest from the mid-1980s, told the ABC the church had had decades to address the issue but had only revealed the figure to the Victorian inquiry on Friday.
"It's only been victims coming out and going to the police that has stopped all of this. The church has never lifted a finger to stop their paedophile priests," Ms Foster said.
As a result of being raped by the Catholic priest, one of Ms Foster's daughters took her own life.
According to The Telegraph, the Australian Catholic Church admitted it was “ashamed” at its slow response: “We were very slow to take victims seriously, to listen to what they said and what had happened to them, to believe their accounts,” said the church’s spokesman, Father Shane Mackinlay.
Denis Hart, the archbishop of Melbourne, commented in a statement that the story is "horrific and shameful".
"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," the statement read.
The figures were released in a submission to a Victoria state parliamentary inquiry into the handling of abuse cases. The inquiry was launched after 40 victims in the state of Victoria committed suicide, The Daily Beast reported.
45 more cases are being investigated by church authorities, reports BBC, while campaigners insists the true number of abuse victims could be up to 10,000 in Australia's state of Victoria alone, due to the fact that most sex abuse victims might have not reported the crime.
In the 2011 census, 25.3 per cent of Australians were counted as Roman Catholics (Australian Bureau of Statistics). Similarly, about 27.5% of Victorians describe themselves as Roman Catholics.