[BITList] pope - what me worry?

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Sun Mar 28 15:43:37 BST 2010

Pope Benedict condemns 'petty gossip' over child sexual abuse scandal

Pope Benedict waves to pilgrims in St Peter's square as the start of mass to celebrate Palm Sunday. Photograph: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Benedict today risked inflaming opinion as he appeared to round on critics of the Catholic church over the widening sexual abuse scandal, saying he would not "be intimidated by ... petty gossip".

The 82-year-old pontiff led tens of thousands of people in a Palm Sunday service in St Peter's square. He did not mention the scandal engulfing the church directly, but parts of his sermon alluded to it.

The pope said that faith in God helped lead one "towards the courage of not allowing oneself to be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion".

He also spoke of how man can sometimes "fall to the lowest, vulgar levels" and "sink into the swamp of sin and dishonesty".

One prayer read during the mass asked God to help "the young and those who work to educate and protect them". Vatican Radio said it was intended to "sum up the feelings of the church at this difficult time when it confronts the plague of paedophilia".

In the face of one of the gravest scandals in the Catholic church's recent history, the Vatican has chosen to attack the media for what it called an "ignoble attempt" to smear Pope Benedict and his top advisers "at any cost".

The Vatican is facing a barrage of questions about the pope's handling of sex abuse cases both when he was archbishop of Munich and when he headed the Vatican's doctrinal office.

The then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was the archbishop of Munich when a priest was allowed to resume pastoral work with children even while receiving therapy for paedophilia. He was subsequently convicted of abusing minors. In addition, a case has come to light in which Ratzinger's deputy at the Vatican doctrinal office told Wisconsin bishops to quash a church trial for a priest alleged to have abused up to 200 deaf boys.

The Vatican insists the pope was unaware of the Munich priest's move to the pastoral job and has defended its handling of the Wisconsin case.

Benedict has only spoken out publicly about the scandal in Ireland, writing a letter to the Irish faithful last week in which he chastised Irish bishops for leadership shortcomings and errors in judgment for failing to apply church law to stop abusive priests.

Yesterday, the Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, acknowledged that the way the church responded to the abuse scandal was "crucial for its moral credibility".
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