Aug. 16 (UPI) -- The Vatican on Thursday said the systematic coverup of sexual abuse at several Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania is "criminally and morally reprehensible."
The director of the Vatican's Press Office, Greg Burke, issued a statement saying the Catholic Church takes the grand jury's investigation seriously and "condemns unequivocally" the sexual abuse of minors.
"Regarding the report made public in Pennsylvania this week, there are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow," Burke wrote.
The 900-page report, released Tuesday, detailed sexual abuse by "predator priests" in six dioceses -- Allenton, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the dioceses followed a pattern of "abuse, deny and cover up" to prey on both male and female teens and pre-pubescent children.
The Vatican noted most of the 1,000 reported abuses took place before the early 2000s, citing studies which show Catholic Church reform has "drastically reduced" the occurrence of clergy child abuse.
"The Holy See encourages continued reform and vigilance at all levels of the Catholic Church to help ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults from harm," Burke wrote.
The Vatican said Pope Francis stands by the victims and views their comfort as a priority within the church.
"The Church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent."