Catholic clergy abused over 200,000 minors in France since the 1950s, according to the findings of an independent investigation released Tuesday.
The report from the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) found that over 216,000 minors had been abused, CNN reported.
When including the victims of people who had other links to the church but were not clergy, such as through Catholic schools, the number of abuse victims rises to approximately 330,000.
The report said the Catholic Church is “where the prevalence of sexual violence is at its highest, other than in family and friend circles,” the outlet reported.
According to the report, the abuse was at its peak between 1950-1970, and a later surge in cases followed in the 1990s, Reuters reported. Most of the victims were boys between the ages of 10 and 13.
According to the outlet, between 2,900-3,200 suspected pedophiles had been in the French Catholic Church over the past 70 years.
The Vatican said that Pope FrancisPope FrancisRetired pope says he hopes to soon join friends in 'the afterlife' Religion and the G-20: With faith, we can move mountains The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Jan. 6 panel flexes its muscle MORE was informed of the report, The Washington Post reported.
“His thoughts turn first to the victims, with immense sorrow for their injuries and gratitude for their courage to speak out,” the pontiff said, according to the newspaper.
The commission made 45 recommendations on preventing abuse, according to The Associated Press. Among them is changing the Canon Law and adopting policies to acknowledge and compensate victims.
Incidents of abuse in the Catholic Church have been a worldwide issue that the Vatican has been combatting for decades.
In response to Tuesday’s report, Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney who’s represented abuse victims in the U.S. and around the world, called for the names of all alleged perpetrators of abuse to be released immediately.
“You have what is purportedly the most moral institution in the world being the most evil and heartless,” Garabedian said in an emailed statement. “Any victim of clergy sexual abuse should just call the police immediately to report the sexual abuse.”