The Vatican has told a UN inquiry that it has detailed policies and procedures to help eliminate child abuse in the Catholic Church and to collaborate with state authorities to fight the crime.

It made its remarks to a UN panel in Geneva.

The panel is conducting the first public international inquiry into the Church's response to the abuse scandal since it erupted almost two decades ago.

This morning's hearings in Geneva were to establish how the Holy See has fulfilled its obligation under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Catholic Church signed up to the charter 25 years ago.

But many victims' advocates claim the Vatican has failed to protect children's rights by covering up sexual abuse and shielding priest-perpetrators, in particular, from the civil law.

The Church's spokesman pointed to successful prosecutions in the civil courts.

Head of the mission Silvano M Tomasi told the meeting the Holy See is committed to eliminating abuse.

"The Holy See has carefully delineated policies and procedures designed to help eliminate such abuse and to collaborate with respective state authorities to fight against this crime," he said.

"The Holy See has also committed to listen carefully to victims of abuse and to address the impact such situations have on survivors of abuse and on their families."

Mr Tomasi is the permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations Office and other International Organisations.

"The vast majority of church personnel in institutions and the local level have provided and continue to provide a wide variety of services to children by educating them and by supporting their families and by responding to their physical, emotional and spiritual needs," he added.

"Egregious crimes of abuse committed against children have rightly been adjudicated and punished by the competent civil authorities in their respective countries."

Mr Tomasi also told the meeting the Vatican would welcome recommendations from the UN CRC.

But a spokesman for the US-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests responded that across the world, prosecutions have happened despite, and not because of, the Church's efforts.

The panel's chairperson raised the Church's conduct in Ireland and Spain while other panellists cast the net wider.

However, the Vatican emphasised that it is anxious to learn from the UN.

Pope Francis last month ordered the formation of a child protection committee to address the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church.

The group will also consider ways to better screen priests, protect minors and help victims in the face of charges the Vatican has not done enough to guard the vulnerable or make amends.

The Vatican refused to provide the UN rights panel with information on the church's internal investigations into the sexual abuse of children by clergy.

The Holy See said it would not release information on its internal investigations into abuse cases unless required to do so by a request from a state or government to cooperate in legal proceedings.

Pope Francis backs payment of damages

Pope Francis has said that although clerical child abuse scandals have cost the Catholic Church a lot of money, "paying damages is only right."

He was speaking in Rome as his representatives at the United Nations were subjected to the most detailed public scrutiny to date in over two decades of scandals .

Pope Francis told the congregation at morning Mass that although abuse scandals have "cost the Church a lot of money, paying damages is only right."

He said bishops, priests and lay people were responsible for this "shame of the Church". And that abusers, instead of giving Catholics "the bread of life," had fed their flocks poison.