Trier Bishop Stephan Ackermann launches hotline on March 30, 2010. Text reads : "victims of sexual abuse"/Johannes Eisele

A German hotline for victims of sexual abuse by clerics was deluged with thousands of calls in the week after the Roman Catholic Church launched the counseling service in a bid to restore trust.

Some 13,293 people attempted to call the hotline over the course of the first week but only 2,670 were able to connect with the overwhelmed 11 counselors on duty, church officials said.

“We didn’t expect so many calls,” said Stephan Kronenburg, spokesman for the diocese of Trier where the hotline control center is located. “It’s been well received. Many have called to say they’re grateful for it.”

On its first day, the hotline received 4,459 calls but the counselors, who work in four-hour shifts, were only able to handle 162 and the service was forced to shut down temporarily. In addition to the 11 counselors handling the phones, seven are dedicated to online queries.