Vatican feels 'shame and sorrow' over US grand jury report on abuse

VATICAN CITY, Aug 16 (Reuters) - The Vatican, in its first response to a damning report by a U.S. grand jury on sexual abuse of children by priests in Pennsylvania, on Thursday expressed "shame and sorrow."

The grand jury on Tuesday released the findings of the largest-ever investigation of sex abuse in the U.S. Catholic Church, finding that 301 priests in the state had sexually abused minors over the past 70 years.

In a statement, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke also said the Catholic Church "must learn hard lessons from its past," and that the Vatican vowed to hold abusers and enablers accountable.

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Pope Francis holds Vatican mass for prisoners
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Pope Francis holds Vatican mass for prisoners

Pope Francis celebrates a Holy Mass in front of a thousand prisoners, prison chaplains and volunteers in St. Peter's Basilica on November 6, 2016 in Vatican City, Vatican.

(Photo by Andrea Franceschini/Corbis via Getty Images News).

Pope Francis leaves at the end of a Jubilee mass for prisoners in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican November 6, 2016.

(REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

Pope Francis celebrates a Jubilee mass for prisoners in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican November 6, 2016.

(REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

A Swiss Guard on duty as Pope Francis celebrates a Holy Mass in front of a thousand prisoners, prison chaplains and volunteers in St. Peter's Basilica on November 6, 2016 in Vatican City, Vatican.

(Andrea Franceschini/Corbis via Getty Images News)

Pope Francis celebrates a Jubilee mass for prisoners in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican November 6, 2016.

(REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

Pope Francis celebrates a Jubilee mass for prisoners in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican November 6, 2016.

(REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

Pope Francis leads a mass for the Jubilee of Inmates, on November 6, 2016 at St Peter's basilica in Vatican. One thousand prisoners -- including some lifers -- take part in a special event at the Vatican this weekend, along with 3,000 family members, prison staff and volunteers. The prisoners from 12 countries will had yesterday the opportunity to confess and walk through the 'Holy Door' at Saint Peter's Basilica, a Jubilee tradition by which Catholics can ask forgiveness for their sins.

(VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis leads the Holy Mass for Jubilee of Prisoners in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Vatican on November 06, 2016. One thousand prisoners take part in a special event at the Vatican, along with 3,000 family members, prison staff and volunteers. The prisoners from 12 countries had yesterday the opportunity to confess and walk through the 'Holy Door' at St. Peter's Basilica, a Jubilee tradition by which Catholics can ask forgiveness for their sins.

(Photo by Giuseppe Ciccia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Pope Francis leads a mass for the Jubilee of Inmates, on November 6, 2016 at St Peter's basilica in Vatican. One thousand prisoners -- including some lifers -- take part in a special event at the Vatican this weekend, along with 3,000 family members, prison staff and volunteers. The prisoners from 12 countries will had yesterday the opportunity to confess and walk through the 'Holy Door' at Saint Peter's Basilica, a Jubilee tradition by which Catholics can ask forgiveness for their sins.

(VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis leads a mass for the Jubilee of Inmates, on November 6, 2016 at St Peter's basilica in Vatican. One thousand prisoners -- including some lifers -- take part in a special event at the Vatican this weekend, along with 3,000 family members, prison staff and volunteers. The prisoners from 12 countries will had yesterday the opportunity to confess and walk through the 'Holy Door' at Saint Peter's Basilica, a Jubilee tradition by which Catholics can ask forgiveness for their sins.

(VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis leads the Holy Mass for Jubilee of Prisoners in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Vatican on November 06, 2016. One-thousand prisoners took part in a special event at the Vatican, along with 3,000 family members, prison staff and volunteers. The prisoners from 12 countries had yesterday the opportunity to confess and walk through the 'Holy Door' at St. Peter's Basilica, a Jubilee tradition by which Catholics can ask forgiveness for their sins.

(Photo by: Giuseppe Ciccia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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The statement stressed the "need to comply" with civil law, including mandatory reporting of abuse against minors and said Pope Francis understands how "these crimes can shake the faith and spirit of believers" and that he wanted to "root out this tragic horror."

Earlier on Thursday, U.S. Roman Catholic bishops called for a Vatican-led probe backed by lay investigators into allegations of sexual abuse by former Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who resigned last month.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella, editing by Steve Scherer)

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