POPE FRANCIS believes young people are turning away from the Catholic Church as a direct result of its handling of the ongoing clerical sexual abuse scandal.
The pontiff expressed his concerns during an address to a room of young people at the Kaarli Lutheran Church in Tallinn, Estonia, which came as part of his four-day Baltic pilgrimage.
"Young people are scandalized by the hypocrisy of older people," Francis told the assembled journalists, CNN reports.
"They are scandalized by war. They are scandalized by incongruity, they are scandalized by corruption, and as part of this corruption ... sexual abuse."
According to the Catholic News Agency, Pope Francis went on to express concern that many young people are now turning elsewhere for guidance as the church does not have "anything meaning to say to them".
The comments come in the wake of yet more allegations of historical sex abuse and cover-ups, this time in Germany.
A new report by university researchers revealed that at least 3,677 people were abused by clergy between 1946 and 2014 according to the Associated Press.
As a result, the Catholic Church is facing yet more calls for accountability regarding clerical sexual abuse.
Senior church officials, in particular, have come in for criticism over their handling of predatory priests and the bishops who helped cover for their behaviour.
The comments came after a summer in which the American Catholic Church was similarly rocked by a clerical sexual abuse scandal and cover-up.
Back in August, a Pennsylvania grand jury identified more than 1,000 victims and 301 predatory priests following an investigation into six of the state's dioceses.