Pope Benedict XVI said that his meeting with the Irish Bishops Conference "would help to unify the bishops and enable them to speak with one voice in identifying concrete steps aimed at bringing healing to those who have been abused."

The Pope and Vatican officials met this week to discuss the religious and political fallout in Ireland following the release of the controversial Murphy report on child sex abuse.

The Pope met with 24 Irish bishops this week, he hoped that the meeting would be "encouraging a renewal of faith in Christ and restoring the church's spiritual and moral credibility."

In a statement released by the Pope, he said all that all those that attended the meeting had "examined the failure of Irish church authorities for many years to act effectively in dealing with cases involving the sexual abuse of young people by some Irish clergy and religious."

He said that child abuse was "not only a heinous crime, but also a grave sin which offends God and wounds the dignity of the human person created in his image",

The Pope said there was a "general crisis of faith affecting the church", he added, the "weakening of faith has been a significant contributing factor in phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors".

Speaking at yesterday’s press conference Cardinal Sean Brady said that while the Pope had, "given a strong message of encouragement” to the bishops, he recognized the problem, "was not an Irish problem, not an Anglophone problem, not a Catholic Church problem.”

However, some child abuse victims and support groups expressed their disappointment of the outcome of the meetings. They criticized the bishops for not discussing the possibility of further bishop resignations.

Bishop of Ferns Denis Brennan said that the “victims were central to all our discussions and remain a top priority." However, there were no immediate plans to allow the victims to meet the Pope. Brennan was hopeful that the Pope would organize a meeting with the victims "when the time is right."

On the subject of bishop resignations, Bishop Brennan said: "That is a matter between the bishops and the Holy See. It would not be appropriate for us to give opinions on the matter."

Bishop Brennan also said that the Catholic Church "will co-operate fully" with the Murphy commission if it is extended to other dioceses in Ireland.

The Bishop of Clogher, Joseph Duffy told Irish broadcaster RTE last night that the bishops and the Vatican "share responsibility for not doing the job as it should be done."

Christine Buckley of the Aislinn Centre called the Vatican meeting "a charade," while Dublin child abuse victim Andre Madden said, "it would appear that self-preservation and damage limitation for the Catholic Church is still a higher priority . . . than the concerns and wishes of people who had been sexually abused.”