Pope Francis has defended the Catholic Church's record on tackling the sexual abuse of children by priests.

In an interview published this morning, he said that "no-one else has done more" to root out paedophilia.

"The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility," he said in an interview with Il Corriere della Sera.

"No-one else has done more. Yet the church is the only one to have been attacked."

The comments prompted a quick reaction from victims, with one group calling the assertion "disingenuous".

Asked about the sexual abuse scandal, in which many priests who molested children were moved from parish to parish instead of being dismissed, he said the church had done much since the scandal first broke about 15 years ago and was being singled out for attack.

He defended the church's record, including that of his predecessor Pope Benedict, whom Francis credited with having the courage to start reforms.

"On this path, the church has done much, perhaps more than all others," he said.

Victims of sexual abuse by the clergy rejected this.

"His central claim - that no one has 'done more' on abuse than the Catholic Church - is disingenuous," said US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

"It would be far more accurate to say that no one has done more to deny, minimise and hide child sex crimes than the church."

The Pope appeared to be referring to a report by a United Nations committee last month, which accused the Vatican of systematically turning a blind eye to decades of sexual abuse of children by priests, and demanded it turn over known or suspected offenders to civil justice.

The Vatican said the report was distorted, unfair and ideologically slanted.