The Anglican Bishop of Chichester says he is "profoundly ashamed" that the Church in his area has failed to protect children from abuse.
The Rt Rev Dr Martin Warner, who has been in post since May 2012, admitted that the term "apology" was "too light a word" and that the diocese needed to face up to "our shame".
Both Dr Warner and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, have said they will do "everything in their power" to ensure that such abuse never happens again.
An interim report for the enquiry into the operation of the diocesan child protection policies in the Diocese of Chichester was published last week.
It found that there was a "profoundly negative culture" within the Diocese of Chichester led to two decades of dysfunctional operation and child protection failures.
The report was written by Bishop John Gladwin and Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC, who were appointed as the Archbishop’s commissaries to carry out the enquiry.
In responding to the report, Archbishop Rowan Williams declared: “The abiding hurt and damage done to [those involved] is something that none of us in the Church can ignore, and I am deeply sorry that they should have been let down by those they ought to have been able to trust."
He continued: "I hope they will believe that we take their experience seriously: we owe them not only our words of apology but our best efforts to make sure that in the future our churches will be safe places for children and vulnerable people of all ages. The interim report confirms that there have been many and longstanding failures in implementing a robust and credible safeguarding policy in the Diocese of Chichester. The guidelines laid down by the national Church and the agreed standards of best practice have not been consistently followed and the flaws in safeguarding practice have put children and others at risk."
"In the last couple of years much has been done to improve the situation but there remain several areas of concern. In the light of this, I have decided that the visitation should continue and that both safeguarding and appointments matters should be conducted under the supervision of this office until uniformly better practice can be assured," said Dr Williams.
"In the course of their work those who have conducted the visitation have identified some areas where they believe that lessons learned from Chichester could usefully point to some further development of national policy or processes. These will now be considered, along with the rest of this Report, by our national Safeguarding group as soon as possible," he concluded.
The Church of England says it is committed to listening to the survivors of abuse and learning lessons from the past.
It is encouraging anyone who has suffered abuse to come forward, with the promise that their privacy and wishes will be respected.
A special helpline has been set up in conjunction with the NSPCC on 0800 389 5344. Victims can also make a report to police.
"We would also urge anyone with any concerns about a child protection issue to contact the police," the Church said in a media statement following the publication of the report into the situation in Chichester.
* Interim Report Of The Commissaries Appointed By The Archbishop Of Canterbury In Relation To A Visitation Upon The Diocese Of Chichester [*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document] - http://tinyurl.com/br5gvxv