Pope John Paul II (search) told American bishops Friday that he shares their pain over the U.S. sex-abuse scandal and said he was aware of their determination to deal forthrightly with the problem.

The pope has raised the sex-abuse scandal and other problems facing the U.S. church as American bishops have made their periodic visits to the Vatican (search) this year. In the last such visit of the year, he saw bishops from Minnesota as well as North and South Dakota.

John Paul, who referred to the "pain and scandal of recent years" without mentioning the problem of sex abuse by name, said his meetings with American bishops have been consolation to him.

"At the same time, I have shared the deep pain which you and your people have experienced in these last years, and I have witnessed your determination to deal fairly and forthrightly with the serious pastoral issues which have been raised as a result," he said, according to a statement from the Vatican.

He asked the bishops to "persevere joyfully in the ministry entrusted to you, in obedience to the authentic teaching of the Church."