Pope Benedict has said he is disturbed and distressed at the sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

The Pope said he shared the "outrage, betrayal and shame" felt by Irish people over the abuse and cover-up.

The pontiff said the Vatican was working on developing new safeguards to ensure such  "heinous crimes" never happened again.

He also said he was asking for prayers for the victims.

The Pope was speaking after a 90-minute meeting with Cardinal Seán Brady, the Primate of All Ireland, and Monsignor Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin about the Murphy Report which detailed the horrific events.

The Murphy inquiry examined the Catholic Church's handling of child abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese over a period of 30 years (1975 - 2004) and found that the Church had been "obsessively" secretive.

It revealed a detailed account of the abuse suffered by the more than 300 victims which was systematically covered up by the Church authorities.

The report further found that the Church was far more concerned about the Church reputation than the welfare of the children.

"The Holy Father shares the outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland, and he is united with them in prayer at this difficult time in the life of the Church," a  statement from the Vatican said.

"He wishes once more to express his profound regret at the actions of some members of the clergy who have betrayed their solemn promises to God, as well as the trust placed in them by the victims and their families, and by society at large."