29 Nov 2010

Some Catholic leaders use Easter sermons to address child abuse cover-ups, while pope stays silent on scandal

Canada.com - AFP April 4, 2010

Pope shuns scandal at Easter Sunday mass

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI kept mum on paedophile priest scandals rocking the Roman Catholic Church during his Easter mass Sunday as Christians across the world marked the resurrection of Christ.

While condemning persecution and lamenting the "suffering" of Christian minorities in Iraq and Pakistan, Benedict failed to mention any abuse by the Church’s priests.

Rallying around the embattled head of the Roman Catholic Church in a rain-drenched St Peter’s Square, the dean of the College of Cardinals told the pope in an unusual greeting: "The people of God are with you and do not allow themselves to be impressed by the idle chatter of the moment."

Cardinal Angelo Sodano was reprising the same phrase the pope used a week ago when he urged Christians "not be intimidated by the idle chatter of prevailing opinions".

In Paris, the archbishop of the city and head of the Catholic Church in France, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, said there was a "smear campaign aimed at the pope" over the paedophile priest scandal.

It was Benedict, then known as Cardinal Ratzinger, who "as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, encouraged bishops to take action against paedophilia by systematically informing Rome of such cases," he told Le Parisien newspaper.

However the top bishops in both Belgium and Germany issued forthright condemnations of the Church’s role in covering up for predator priests.

Belgium’s Andre Joseph Leonard, archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel, said in his Easter homily that the Church had mismanaged the crisis "with a guilty silence".

Germany’s top archbishop, Robert Zollitsch, for his part, said: "Today particularly we must set out together and examine inconceivable events, awful crimes, the Church’s dark aspects as well as our shadowy sides."

The scandals have cast a pall over Easter, the most joyous day in the Christian calendar, commemorating the day when Jesus Christ is believed to have been resurrected.

In his "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message the pope said humankind needed "a spiritual and moral conversion... to emerge from a profound crisis, one which requires deep change, beginning with consciences."

Benedict called for an end to conflicts in Africa, notably in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea and Nigeria, and condemned "a dangerous resurgence of crimes linked to drug trafficking" in Latin America and the Caribbean.

He also offered solace to the people of Haiti and Chile following the massive earthquakes in their countries.

As tradition dictates, Benedict ended with greetings in 65 languages including Mongolian, Icelandic, and Aramaic, the language of Jesus still spoken in parts of the Middle East and Turkey.

In Britain and Ireland Catholic and Anglican leaders meanwhile tried to heal the wounds in their Easter sermons following a rift between the churches over the Irish clerical child abuse scandal.

Churchmen on both sides of the Irish Sea spoke of the turmoil in the Irish Catholic Church caused by paedophile priests and attempts to cover up their behaviour.

But they also reflected on comments by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the leader of the world’s Anglicans, who said the Catholic Church was "losing all credibility" in Ireland over the scandal.

His first intervention on the subject — for which he later expressed his "deep sorrow and regret" — sparked an outcry from Anglican and Catholic clergy alike in both Britain and Ireland.

In Jerusalem, thousands of Christian pilgrims streamed into the cavernous Church of the Holy Sepulchre to celebrate Easter at the traditional site of Jesus’s crucifixion and burial.

Incense filled the air as Western and Orthodox pilgrims packed into the labyrinthine maze of chapels and crypts lit by thousands of candles as services were held at the grotto where Jesus is believed to have risen from the dead.

The centuries-old church is shared uneasily by six denominations of Jesus Christ’s followers — Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Egyptian Copts, Syrian Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox.

The crisis over Catholic predator priests took a new twist on Friday when the pope’s personal preacher evoked a parallel between attacks on the pontiff and anti-Semitism.

Jewish groups and those representing victims of abuse by Catholic priests condemned Father Raniero Cantalamessa for quoting the comments, which he said were made in a letter from a Jewish friend, in his Good Friday sermon.

Cantalamessa issued an apology on Sunday, telling the Italian daily Corriere della Sera: "If I inadvertently hurt the feelings of Jews and paedophilia victims, I sincerely regret it and I apologise."

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CBC News - Canadian Press - Associated Press April 4, 2010

Cardinal defends Pope at Easter mass

A senior cardinal defended Pope Benedict XVI from "petty gossip" on Sunday as the pontiff, in his Easter message, maintained his silence on mounting sex abuse coverup accusations.

The ringing tribute by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, at the start of mass attended by tens of thousands of faithful in St. Peter's Square, marked an unusual departure from the Vatican's Easter rituals.

Sodano's defence of the Pope's "unfailing" leadership and courage, as well as of the work of priests worldwide with children entrusted to their care, built on a vigorous Vatican campaign to defend Benedict's moral authority.

Victims of sexual abuse by clergy have accused the pontiff and other church leaders of helping shape and perpetuate a climate of coverup toward the crimes against children in parishes, schools, orphanages and other church-run institutions.

Dressed in gold robes and shielded from a cool drizzle by a canopy, Benedict looked weary as he listened to Sodano's speech at the start of mass in the cobblestone square bedecked with daffodils, tulips and azaleas.

"With this spirit today we rally close around you, successor to (Saint) Peter, bishop of Rome, the unfailing rock of the holy church," Sodano said. "Holy Father, on your side are the people of God, who do not allow themselves to be influenced by the petty gossip of the moment, by the trials which sometimes buffet the community of believers."

Sodano's words angered a prominent advocacy group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

"When we speak up and tell how our childhood innocence was shattered by sexual assaults by priests, it is not 'petty gossip,"' SNAP president Barbara Blaine said in a statement.
Failings and hopes

At the end of the two-hour long ceremony, Benedict delivered the papacy's traditional Easter "Urbi et Orbi" message, analyzing humanity's failings and hopes.

Benedict singled out the "trials and sufferings" of Christians in Iraq and Pakistan, noting that these believers have risked persecution and death for their faith. He urged hope for the people of Haiti and Chile, devastated by earthquakes.

He said Easter could "signal the victory of peaceful coexistence and respect" in crime-ravaged areas of Latin American countries plagued by drug trafficking and said he would pray for peace in the Middle East.

But, despite repeated appeals by victims of clerical sexual abuse that he take responsibility for his role in the handling of pedophile priests, he stayed silent on the issue.

The victims contend there were decades of systematic coverup by bishops in many countries, including the United States, Ireland and Benedict's native Germany.

They want the Pope to demand the resignations of bishops complicit in any conspiracy to shield pedophile priests by shuffling them from parish to parish instead of kicking them out of the priesthood.
Accusations 'vile defamation,' paper says

The accusations against the Pope stem from his leadership as archbishop of Munich before he came to the Vatican three decades ago, as well as his long tenure in the Vatican's office dealing with a growing pile of dossiers about pedophile priests.

Sunday's edition of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano denounced the accusations against the Pope as a "vile defamation operation."

Benedict hasn't made any explicit reference to the scandal since he released a letter to the Irish faithful concerning the abuse crisis in that country on March 20.

Sodano defended the church's priests as well as the pontiff.

"Especially with you in these days are those 400,000 priests who generously serve the people of God, in parishes, recreation centres, schools, hospitals and many other places, as well as in the missions in the most remote parts of the world," the cardinal said.

In rushing to Benedict's defence, the Vatican has angered abuse victims and their advocates, as well as Jewish leaders, who fumed after the papal preacher in a Good Friday sermon told the Pope that the accusations against him were akin to the campaign of anti-Semitic violence that culminated in the Holocaust.

The preacher, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, told Corriere della Sera daily in an interview Sunday that he had no intention "of hurting the sensibilities of the Jews and of the victims of pedophilia."

"I have sincerely regretted and I ask forgiveness, reaffirming my solidarity with both" lobbies, the newspaper quoted him as saying.This article was found at:

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BBC News - U.K. April 4, 2010

Catholic Church abuse scandal tackled in Easter sermons

Catholic leaders in Britain and Ireland have used their Easter sermons to address the Church's handling of its global child abuse scandal.

The leader of Catholics in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, said "serious sins" had been committed.

The Irish Church's leader Cardinal Sean Brady - who has faced resignation calls - said there was no longer a "hiding place for abusers in the church".

Meanwhile the Archbishop of Canterbury has apologised over previous remarks.

Dr Rowans Williams, leader of the Anglican Communion, had said in an interview that Ireland's Catholic Church was losing all credibility.

He said in a subsequent BBC interview that he was "sorry" for adding to the difficulties being faced by Irish bishops.

He did not tackle the child abuse issue in his own sermon on Sunday.

At the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI made no direct mention of the cover-up accusations which have engulfed the Church.

He said Easter brought a message of pardon, goodness and truth.

At St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, apologised to abuse victims.

He said: "Crimes against children have indeed been committed, and any Catholics who were aware of such crimes and did not act to report them brings shame on us all."

He added that "no comfort" could come from the fact that only a small percentage of priests were guilty of paedophilia.

'Need for forgiveness'

Meanwhile Archbishop Nichols told worshippers at Westminster Cathedral that to appreciate the Easter message "we have to begin with our own sin and shame".

He said: "In recent weeks the serious sins committed within the Catholic community have been much talked about.

"For our part, we have been reflecting on them deeply, acknowledging our guilt and our need for forgiveness."

The head of Ireland's Catholics, who has been facing pressure to resign for his role in mishandling the case of a serial child abuser, admitted to worshippers that he was part of a cover-up culture.

Speaking on Easter Sunday, Cardinal Sean Brady told the congregation at St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh the Pope had talked of a "misplaced" concern for the Church's reputation.

He said: "I realise that, however unintentionally, however unknowingly, I too allowed myself to be influenced by that culture in our Church, and our society.

"I pledge to you that, from now on, my overriding concern will always be the safety and protection of everyone in the Church - but especially children and all those who are vulnerable."

Last month Cardinal Brady admitted he represented the Church at meetings in 1975 where children signed vows of silence over complaints against paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth.

The global Catholic Church has been rocked by sex abuse scandals - many dating back decades - in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, the US and Ireland.

Two major reports into allegations of paedophilia among Irish clergy last year revealed the extent of abuse, cover-ups and hierarchical failings.

Dr Williams' comments about the controversy had angered the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, who said he was "stunned" by them.

Dr Williams later telephoned the archbishop to express his "deep sorrow" and insist he meant no offence.

Speaking on Aled Jones' BBC Radio 2 show on Sunday, Dr Williams said he did not think he had said anything that had not already been said by others, including the leaders of the Irish Church.

At a Mass in Rome a leading cardinal, Angelo Sodano, said Catholics would not be influenced by what he called the "petty gossip" of the moment.

Meanwhile, the Pope's personal preacher has apologised for comments in which he likened criticism of the Roman Catholic church over child sex abuse to the persecution of Jews.

Last month, the Pope apologised to all victims of child sex abuse by Catholic priests in Ireland.

He has also rebuked Irish bishops for "grave errors of judgement" in dealing with the problem.

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