BRUSSELS — The Belgian Roman Catholic church Monday acknowledged widespread sexual abuse over years by its clergy and pleaded for time to set up a system to punish all abusers and provide closure for victims.

The comments were in response to a report Friday in which hundreds of sex abuse victims revealed harrowing accounts of molestation by Catholic clergy throughout the country over the past 50 years.

At a news conference Monday, Belgium’s Archbishop Andre-Mutien Leonard said “a feeling of anger and powerlessness” had taken hold of the church.

“The report and the suffering it contains make us shiver,” he told reporters. He said the crisis gripping the church is so deep it would be impossible to find an easy way out.

“We want to draw the necessary lessons from the mistakes of the past,” Leonard said.

The report, by an independent panel with links to the church, highlighted claims by surviving family members that at least 13 victims committed suicide as a result of the abuse by clergy. Hundreds more victims complained about trauma that plagued them, sometimes up to 50 years after the abuse.

“The challenge is so big and touches on so many emotions, it seems impossible to us to present a new proposal in all its details (now),” Leonard said of anticipated church plans to go after the abusers and protect the victims.

The report was the latest embarrassment for Belgium’s Church, which is still reeling after the April resignation of Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, who admitted to having sexually abused a nephew for years when he was a priest and bishop decades ago.