Pope says abuse scandals 'terrifying'
'Sin within Church', pontiff declares11 May, 14:29
"It is really terrifying that the Church should be suffering from attacks coming from inside, from the sin that exists within the Church itself," the pope said on a flight taking him to Portugal.
The pope, who is set to visit the Fatima Shrine during a four-day trip, said that the miracles that took place there "announced" the Church's suffering.
He also stressed that "forgiveness is no substitute for justice". Child sex abuse scandals have hit the Catholic Church in the United States, Australia, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Germany and Italy.
Critics have accused the pope of failing to take proper action when he was head of the doctrinal office that deals with paedophilia cases.
The Vatican has said Benedict, on the contrary, made it easier to punish offenders as well as preventing paedophiles from becoming priests.
Benedict, 83, became pope five years ago after serving for 24 years as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Shortly before his election in 2005 he vowed to clean out what he called "filth" from the Church.
The pontiff has met with victims of paedophile priests in the US, Australia and, most recently, Malta where he is said to have wept as he prayed with them.
At Easter he sent a pastoral letter to Ireland expressing his "shame" over decades of abuse and cover-ups there.
Benedict has accepted the resignations of four Irish bishops while another two have tendered their resignations.
Belgium's longest-serving bishop, Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges, stepped down last month and his resignation was accepted.
The most recent bishop to resign, on Sunday, was Walter Mixa of Augsburg in Germany who is the subject of a police probe.
The Vatican recently published the guidelines it has been using since 2003, stressing all cases are reported to the police as soon as possible.
It has also said that Benedict will be able to defrock paedophiles immediately.