The Apostolic Visitation, which was established by Pope Benedict last March, met with a Northern Irish group that represents victims on clerical abuse last Friday in Newry, Co. Down.

Following the publication of damning reports into clerical abuse in the Dublin archdiocese, the pope announced the official Visitation in a pastoral letter to Catholics in Ireland.

The Visitation has been holding meetings around Ireland this month.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the retired archbishop of Westminister, is leading the panel.

Margarte McGuckin, from Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse, says she was abused from the age of three at a Sisters of Nazareth orphanage in Belfast.

She believes that bishops were warned not to further investigate the allegations brought against the church.

"They were told not to go to the police with any allegations that were made to them regarding the abuses so how are we, the victims of institutional and clerical abuse, ever meant to trust our bishops or the Vatican anymore.

Ms McGuckin said she hopes the ongoing talks with members of the Catholic clergy “are not just for show."

In his pastoral letter, the pope said he would send inspectors to some Irish dioceses, seminaries and Irish religious orders to investigate how they dealt with abuse allegations.

As well as Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, other senior prelate’s participating in the review include Cardinal O'Malley, Boston, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, New York, Archbishop Thomas Collins, Toronto, and Archbishop Terence Prendergast SJ, Ottawa.

Harsh words from the Irish Times for the Catholic church in Ireland