Cardinal defends pope, denounces "petty gossip"

VATICAN CITY Sun Apr 4, 2010 7:58pm IST

Related Topics

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A leading cardinal defended Pope Benedict at an unusual address at the pontiff's Easter Sunday Mass, saying the Church would not be intimidated by "petty gossip" about sexual abuse of children by priests.

But in his own Easter address hours later, the pope, looking at times weary, did not mention the scandal that has engulfed the Church and posed a crisis in his five-year-old pontificate.

The surprise speech by Cardinal Angelo Sodano was the first time in recent memory that the ritual of a papal Easter Sunday Mass was changed so someone could address the pope at the start.

"The people of God are with you and will not let themselves be influenced by the petty gossip of the moment, by the trials that sometimes assail the community of believers," Sodano said.

The change of protocol underscored just how much the Vatican is feeling the pressure from a growing scandal concerning sexual abuse of children by priests and reports of a possible cover-up that have inched closer to the pope himself.

Later, the pope did not mention the scandal in his twice-yearly "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) address, which touched on a series of world problems.

Sodano praised Benedict as the "solid rock" and said "The Church is with you!" to the cheers of thousands of people holding umbrellas in St Peter's Square.

His speech of solidarity listed those who support the pope, particularly "the 400,000 priests who generously serve" in schools, hospitals and missions around the world. This was a clear attempt to underscore the Vatican's position that only a tiny minority of priests have abused children.

VICTIMS GROUP "INSULTED"

But victims said they were disappointed.

"Lofty statements from Vatican officials do not change the facts," said Barbara Blaine, president of the U.S.-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

"Deeply wounded victims and our family members need comfort and healing, but instead receive reprimands and insults. When we speak up and tell how our childhood innocence was shattered by sexual assaults by priests it is not 'petty gossip'," she said.

Easter has been clouded by weeks of accusations the Church in several countries mishandled and covered up abuse of children by priests, sometimes for decades.

Shaken by the crisis, the Vatican has several times accused the media of waging a "despicable campaign of defamation" against the pope. Some reports have accused him of negligence in handling abuse cases in previous roles as a cardinal in his native Germany, and in Rome.

The Vatican has denied any cover-up over the abuse of 200 deaf boys in the United States by Reverend Lawrence Murphy from 1950 to 1974. The New York Times reported the Vatican and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, were warned about Murphy, but the priest was not defrocked.

Catholics leaving the rainy square were mixed in their reaction to the pope's silence on the issue.

"The pope should just address the crisis directly ... they should deal with it in a lawful, equitable and just manner, and they should treat victims with respect," said Nancy Malone of the United States.

But others said Easter was a time to talk of peace and not of scandal.

(Additional reporting by Antonio Denti in Rome; Editing by Jon Hemming)

FILED UNDER:
Photo

After wave of QE, onus shifts to leaders to boost economy

DAVOS, Switzerland - Central banks have done their best to rescue the world economy by printing money and politicians must now act fast to enact structural reforms and pro-investment policies to boost growth, central bankers said on Saturday.

Obama's India Visit

Reuters Showcase

RK Laxman Dead

RK Laxman Dead

'Common Man' cartoonist RK Laxman dead at 93  Full Article 

Nuclear Group

Nuclear Group

China urges India to take steps to satisfy standards of NSG  Full Article 

India’s Male Tenor

India’s Male Tenor

India’s lone male tenor wants to ‘Indianise’ opera  Full Article 

Facebook Outage

Facebook Outage

Hacker group claims it is behind outages at Facebook, other sites  Full Article 

U.S. Blizzard

U.S. Blizzard

`Life-threatening' blizzard shuts down much of U.S. Northeast  Full Article 

Australian Open

Australian Open

Berdych ends Nadal tyranny on day of shocks  Full Article 

Fashionable Modi

Fashionable Modi

When Modi met Obama, his name was all over - his suit  Full Article 

Photo

Auschwitz Anniversary

Last survivors recall Auschwitz, ask if lessons learned  Full Article | Related Story 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage