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Catholic News Agency reports that British and Welsh bishops have apologized for their handling of the Catholic Church’s clergy sex abuse scandal, while also asking Catholics to pray for Pope Benedict during the four Fridays of May. Those Friday prayers will be observed in a spirit of “reparation and atonement.”

The message seems aimed at the protests against Pope Benedict’s planned trip to England in September, which include calls for his arrest by well-known atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens for “crimes against humanity,” despite his diplomatic immunity.

Anti-Vatican sentiment also continues to fester in other parts of Europe plagued by clergy abuse revelations, but in Spain, which may be getting a papal visit in November, the Catholic majority seems to have rallied around the pope. Check out this recent statement of support from that country’s bishops.

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