A senior US churchman visiting Dublin to examine how children are protected against paedophile priests today told parishioners he had not come to offer a quick fix.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, called on survivors who were harmed, as well as lay people and the religious, to come forward.
The cleric said the crisis of the sexual abuse of minors had profound repercussions for entire communities.
"I come to listen, not to offer a quick fix," Cardinal O'Malley told Mass-goers in St Mary's Pro Cathedral in Dublin.
"I come to listen to your pain, your anger, but also your hopes and aspirations."
Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin celebrated Mass with the Cardinal at the start of his investigation visit.
The unprecedented probe was announced by the Pope in his letter to the Catholics of Ireland last March in response to the catalogue of abuse outlines in the Murphy and Ryan reports.
The Cardinal said much had already been done in Dublin to address the crimes of the past, to ensure the safety of children and to provide assistance to victims.
"The task of the visitation is to bring new eyes to the situation, to verify the effectiveness of the present processes used in responding to cases of abuse," he added.
"We are not here to reduplicate investigations or studies of the past.
"We are here to be available to meet with some of those who have been harmed by abuse and wish to meet with us."
The investigation, known as an apostolic visitation, is to identify explicit problems which may require some assistance by the Holy See.
Three other designated archdiocesan visitors have been assigned by Rome. English Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor will visit Armagh, Toronto Archbishop Christopher Collins will visit Cashel, and Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast will meet survivors in Tuam.
The findings should be given to Pope Benedict XVI by Easter 2011.
In his homily Archbishop Martin said the Archdiocese had been wounded by sinful and criminal acts of priests who betrayed the trust of vulnerable young children.
"People have lost their trust in the Church," he said.
"For many young people the recent scandals have become the final element in their alienation from the Church."
Archbishop Martin also spoke of the deep-rooted violence in the capital among criminal gangs and their disregard for human dignity.
"There is a frightening level of violence in our city," he said.
"We have also seen corrupt and deceptive behaviour, which disregards the plight of individuals and shows scorn for the common good.
"Human life has become cheap for criminal gangs who wish to impose their power on others; the common good has been scorned by reckless economic speculation and greed."