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'Renew wounded Church' say pope

'Admission of weakness and sins' after abuse scandals

27 May, 15:05
'Renew wounded Church' say pope

(ANSA) - Vatican City, May 27 - Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday made his most explicit plea yet for the Catholic Church to heal the wounds caused by child sex abuse scandals.

A "humble and painful admission" of "the wounds caused by the weakness and sins of some of the Church's members" must lead to "interior renewal", Benedict told Italian bishops.

"What is cause for scandal must translate itself for us into the urge to re-learn penance, accept purification, learn forgiveness on the one hand and on the other the need for justice," the pope told the 61st annual assembly of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI).

Just before the pope spoke, CEI chief Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco assured Benedict the bishops were "fully" behind the pope's drive to help the Church "reform itself".

Bagnasco told the bishops that the 83-year-old pontiff was "up to the challenges" posed by the scandals, which he was "tackling with credibility and lucidity".

Scandals have spread from the United States to many European countries including, most recently, the pope's own backyard.

Earlier this week CEI No.2 Msgr Mariano Crociata bowed to media pressure to say how many cases there had been in Italy.

He said there had been "about 100" in the last decade but did not say how many priests had been prosecuted or defrocked.

Msgr Crociata said Italy had no need for a special Church panel on abuse like the ones set up in Germany and other European countries.

But he reiterated the pope's vow to cooperate fully with police and work with victims.

The public record of Italian abuse cases grew this week when a priest went on trial in Savona for alleged sexual violence against a 12-year-old girl and a 73-year-old Milan priest known for his support of gay rights was arrested for allegedly abusing a 13-year-old boy.

The Vatican has been responding with increasing openness to the scandals that first emerged in the US in 2002 before spreading to Australia, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Germany and now 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.

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.

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.

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