Pope Benedict XVI has stated the abuse of children by Irish clergy was 'sinful and criminal' and has blamed "inadequate procedures for determining the suitability of candidates" for the priesthood as the main issue.
However, he did not say whether or not bishops should resign for past failures to protect victims or indicate that he would meet victims of abuse.
In his pastoral letter to Irish Catholics the Pope said he was 'truly sorry' for the abuse victims and he expressed shame at the deeds committed, Irish Central reports.
In a letter to the Irish faithful read across Europe amid a growing, multination abuse scandal, the pope apologized to victims but doled out no specific punishments to bishops blamed by Irish government-ordered investigations for having covered up abuse of thousands of Irish children from the 1930s to the 1990s.
Ireland's main group of clerical-abuse victims, One in Four, said it was deeply disappointed by the letter because it failed to place responsibility with the Vatican for what it called a "deliberate policy of the Catholic Church at the highest levels to protect sex offenders, thereby endangering children."
"If the church cannot acknowledge this fundamental truth, it is still in denial," the group said, according to The Associated Press.
The New York Times has reported that, but the pope did not require that church leaders be disciplined for past mistakes as some victims were hoping; nor did he clarify contradictory Vatican rules that many fear allow abuse to continue unpunished.
"You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry," the pope said in a long-awaited, eight-page pastoral letter to Irish Catholics. "Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated."