Archbishop Robert Zollitsch spoke of wounds that cannot be healed
The leader of Germany's Roman Catholic bishops says he hopes Good Friday will herald a new start for the Church after a spate of child abuse allegations.
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch acknowledged that the Church had failed to help victims of abuse by priests.
He blamed the failure on what he called mistaken concern over the Church's reputation.
Pope Benedict is marking Good Friday at the Vatican, although it is not clear if he will address the issue of abuse.
The Vatican has denied claims that, before he became Pope, he covered up cases of abuse.
Since January, more than 250 people across Germany have come forward alleging they had been sexually and physically abused by priests between the 1950s and 1990.
In his message, Archbishop Zollitsch spoke of wounds that may never be healed, and the pain, fear, and shame felt by Catholics.
"Today the Church is conscious that... it did not do enough to help the victims due to disappointment over the painful failings of the perpetrators and due to falsely understood concerns about the Church's image," he said.
He added that he hoped Good Friday could "be a new start for the Church that is so urgently needed".
A special prayer for abuse victims is being read at services across Germany.
It reads: "Pray for the children and the young who, in the middle of the people of God and in the Church community were wronged, abused and wounded in their body and soul."
Archbishop Zollitsch apologised last month to victims of abuse by German priests.
In another attempt to regain popular trust, Catholic bishops in Germany opened a special hotline on Tuesday for victims of abuse.
Within hours it received more than 4,000 calls, German media reported.
Pope Benedict XVI, 82, who was born in Bavaria, has been accused of failing to take action against a suspected abuser during his tenure as archbishop of Munich.
He has made no mention of the scandal shaking the church in Germany, but the row shows no signs of abating, says the BBC's Oana Lungescu, in Berlin.