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Vatican Prosecutor Denounces 'Deadly Culture of Silence'

Irish abuse victim Marie Collins (R) talks during a news conference with British Professor Sheila Hollins in downtown Rome, February 7, 2012.

A top Vatican official is blasting bishops for what he calls their "deadly culture of silence" in dealing with the church's child sex abuse scandal.

It is a scandal that has shaken the faith of Catholics around the world. And on Wednesday, the Vatican’s top sex crimes prosecutor warned bishops they will be held accountable.

"We have the duty to cooperate with civil authorities in a common fight against crime," Scicluna said.

Monsignor Charles Scicluna told a closed-door, church sponsored symposium in Vatican City that bishops can and should be removed from office if they fail to follow church guidelines.

"So there is already provision in canon law, it is a crime in canon law to show malicious or fraudulent negligence in the exercise of one's duty," Scicluna said.

Many victims' groups have long been critical of the Catholic Church and its bishops for shielding priests accused of sexually abusing children and have dismissed the symposium as a public relations ploy.

But Marie Collins, the only abuse victim taking part in the symposium, says she is pleased by what she heard.

"The bottom line for me is that children have to be protected. We can't do anything about those like myself, who were abused in the past, but by putting in proper protection for the future, we can save children in the future from being abused," Collins said.

Pope Benedict has expressed shame and sorrow over THE abuse and has called on bishops to come up with guidelines against pedophiles by May of this year.

Earlier this week, the church said it has received more than 4,000 child sex abuse allegations over the past decade.