(Statues are seen covered in snow at St. Peter's Square in Vatican February 4, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi )

The Roman Catholic Church has sometimes been in denial over the sexual abuse of children by clergy but must now move forward to face up to the scandal, the Vatican’s top official for the issue said on Friday. In an interview with Reuters Television, Monsignor Charles Scicluna said he hoped a major symposium on pedophilia to be held next week in Rome would encourage Church leaders from around the world to listen more to the victims.

“Denial is a very primitive way of coping with very sad things,” said Scicluna, whose formal title is Justice Promoter. “I don’t think that denial will ever be a good response. I will not deny that we have been in denial. I think that people know that. But people need to know that we have to move forward from that very primitive coping mechanism. It doesn’t work,” he said.

The four-day symposium next week at the Jesuit Pontifical Gregorian University, called “Towards Healing and Renewal,” will bring together some 200 people including bishops, leaders of religious orders, victims of abuse and psychologists.

The participants will discuss how the worldwide Church can become more aware of the problem, make a commitment to listen to victims and prevent future cases of abuse. Scicluna said the symposium would stress that this “was not only a sin but a crime.”