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INTERVIEW - Church abuse scandal can hurt other faiths - Mufti
SARAJEVO (Reuters) - A scandal over the sexual abuse of children by priests could harm the credibility of other religions as well as Roman Catholicism, a senior European Muslim leader says.
Mustafa Ceric, the spiritual leader of Bosnia's Muslim majority and a key figure in Christian-Muslim dialogue, told Reuters he hoped Pope Benedict would act decisively to tackle the paedophilia problem and prevent further harm.
"The Church is going through a very difficult time and I wish the current pope will be capable and up to the challenge that he is put in," the grand mufti of Bosnia said in an interview on Wednesday. He stressed his reluctance to comment on what he called an internal matter for the Church.
"It is unfortunate not only for the Catholic Church but for any religious association, and the damage to the moral credibility of the Catholic Church is going to have consequences on the credibility of other religious communities as well."
Ceric, who has met the pope and championed Muslim interfaith dialogue with Christians and Jews, also warned against exaggerating the extent of the child abuse issue.
"I hope that the current pope will be able to grasp this problem with courage, with moral clearness, but at the same time I hope that exaggerations that are now against the Catholic Church and the pope will not go too far to make double damage," he said, adding: "Two wrongs don't make a right."
Ceric is widely respected for espousing a moderate European form of Islam and speaking out against the use of terrorism by Muslim militants and radical clerics who condone such actions.
He was one of a group of 15 leading Islamic scholars who last month refuted a famous 14th century fatwa, or religious edict, on jihad used by radical Islamists to justify killing.
So far, the pope has not spoken out directly on the new wave of sexual abuse allegations that is besetting the Church in countries including the United States, Italy, the Netherlands and his native Germany.
He last spoke about it in a letter to the Irish people on March 20, expressing "shame and remorse" to the victims of child sex abuse by clergy in Ireland and ordering an official inquiry there.
The Vatican has rejected accusations the pope helped cover up abuse by priests in jobs he held before his election in 2005 and has accused the media of waging a "despicable campaign of defamation" against him.
But the crisis shows no sign of abating, with new revelations emerging almost daily.
Gay groups and politicians condemned Pope Benedict's number two on Wednesday after he called homosexuality a "pathology" and linked it directly to sexual abuse of children.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, told a news conference in Santiago, Chile, on Monday:
"Many psychologists and psychiatrists have shown that there is no link between celibacy and paedophilia, but many others have shown, I have recently been told, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia."
(Editing by Tom Heneghan and Michael Roddy)
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