HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A Pennsylvania grand jury says its investigation of clergy sexual abuse identified more than 1,000 child victims.
The grand jury report released Tuesday says that number comes from records in six Roman Catholic dioceses. The grand jury says it believes the "real number" of abused children might be "in the thousands" since some records were lost and victims were afraid to come forward. The report says more than 300 clergies committed the abuse over a period of decades.
RELATED: Read the full grand jury report
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro says the probe found a systematic cover-up by senior church officials in Pennsylvania and at the Vatican.
Pennsylvania officials have released a landmark grand jury report that identifies more than 300 "predator priests" who molested children in six dioceses.
It also accuses church leaders of taking steps to cover up the abuse. The report emerged from one of the nation's most exhaustive investigations of clergy sexual abuse.
The report echoes the findings of many earlier church investigations around the country in its description of widespread sexual abuse by clergy and church officials' concealment of it.
The grand jury scrutinized abuse allegations in dioceses that minister to more than half the state's 3.2 million Catholics.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the former longtime bishop of Pittsburgh who now leads the Washington archdiocese, said ahead of the report's release that he expected to be criticized in it.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, is defending himself ahead of a forthcoming grand jury report investigating child sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania's Roman Catholic dioceses.
He says the report will be critical of some of his actions as Pittsburgh's bishop.
Wuerl wrote to priests late Monday, ahead of Tuesday's release of the report. He says he acted diligently to protect children while bishop of Pittsburgh for 18 years through 2006.
Court records say the report identifies more than 300 "predator priests" and that grand jurors accuse church leaders of brushing aside victims to protect abusers and church institutions.
Wuerl is already dealing with allegations that a predecessor, disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, allegedly sexually abused boys and adult seminarians. He said last month that archdiocesan records showed no complaints about McCarrick.
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Pennsylvania grand jury report details sex abuse by more than 300 Catholic priests
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