DUBLIN -- Ireland's Catholic Church apologized Thursday after a damning new report showed it covered up child sex abuse over more than three decades.
The Irish government also said sorry for failing to protect children in the wake of the latest report, published six months after a first landmark study revealed widespread abuse of children in Catholic care.
"I offer to each and every survivor my apology, my sorrow and my shame for what happened," said Diarmuid Martin, archbishop of Dublin since 2004.
"I am aware that no words of apology will ever be sufficient," he said, adding that "the fact that many abusers were priests constituted both an offence to God and an affront to the priesthood."
The country's most senior Catholic, Cardinal Sean Brady, echoed the comments, saying "I want to apologize to all those who have been hurt and their families."
Following a three-year investigation in the Dublin Archdiocese, the country's largest, the report concluded that four archbishops routinely protected abusers and failed to inform police of the allegations.
One priest admitted to sexually abusing over 100 children, while another confessed that he had abused on a fortnightly basis over 25 years.
"The volume of revelations of child sexual abuse by clergy over the past 35 years or so has been described by a Church source as a 'tsunami' of sexual abuse," said the report.
The Irish government also immediately apologized.
"Whatever the historical and societal reasons for this, the government... apologizes, without reservation or equivocation, for failures by the agencies of the state in dealing with this issue," it said in a statement.
The judicial probe discovered that the archbishops did not report abuse to police until the 1990s as part of a culture of secrecy and to try and avoid damaging the reputation of the Church.
The report said: "All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities."
It found children who complained "were often met with denial, arrogance and cover-up and with incompetence and incomprehension in some cases. Suspicions were rarely acted on."
The study comes just six months after a landmark report in May horrified mainly Catholic Ireland by revealing widespread sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children in Catholic-run institutions dating back to the 1930s.
Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said he read the findings with "a growing sense of revulsion and anger" and promised there would be "no hiding place" for the perpetrators.
"The report catalogues evil after evil committed in the name of what was perversely seen as the greater good," he said.
Victims welcomed the new report.
Marie Collins, who was abused as a child in 1960, said: "This is the end of a very long road for victims of abuse and particularly for those of us who spoke out for so many years, and who were vilified by the church (and) called liars."
The 750-page landmark report by judge Yvonne Murphy is damning in its criticism of failures to protect vulnerable children.
The probe examined complaints of abuse of over 320 children involving a representative sample of 46 priests in the Dublin Archdiocese between 1975 and 2004.
The report said the phrase, "don't ask, don't tell" was appropriate to describe the attitude of the archdiocese to clerical sex abuse for most of the period covered by the report.
"Typically, complainants were not told that other instances of child sexual abuse by their abuser had been proved or admitted," it added.
Responding to the report, human rights group Amnesty International called for an urgent referendum to enshrine children's rights in the Irish constitution to prevent future abuse.
"This report makes for deeply shocking reading, even after all that has gone before it," said executive director of Amnesty International Ireland Colm O'Gorman, himself a victim of sexual abuse by priests.