Some 216,000 children have been victims of abuse by members of the Catholic clergy in France since 1950, the head of a panel investigating abuses by Church members says.
Jean-Marc Sauvé was speaking at the release of a lengthy report on sexual abuse in the French Catholic Church.
He said the number could rise to 330,000 when abuse by lay members of the Church was included.
One victim called the report a turning point in France’s history.
The scandal in France is the latest to hit the Roman Catholic Church, which has been rocked by sexual abuse scandals around the world, often involving children.
The French inquiry was commissioned by the French Catholic Church in 2018.
It spent more than two-and-a-half years combing through court, police and church records and speaking to victims and witnesses.
Mr Sauvé, a senior civil servant, said that until the early 2000s, the Catholic Church had “showed a profound and even cruel indifference towards the victims”.
The commission found evidence of a minimum of 2,900 to 3,200 abusers – out of a total of 115,000 priests and other clerics.
Its report, which is nearly 2,500 pages long, says the “vast majority” of victims were pre-adolescent boys from a wide variety of social backgrounds.
“The Catholic Church is, after the circle of family and friends, the environment that has the highest prevalence of sexual violence,” the report said.
The BBC’s Hugh Schofield says the revelations will be very hard to absorb, and will have people reeling in France.
Most cases assessed by the panel are thought to be too old to prosecute under French law.