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VATICAN CITY (RNS) Breaking his silence as an international clergy sex abuse scandal has roiled the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday (April 15) spoke of the need to “do penance.”
The pope, in an indirect reference to the abuse scandal making headlines around the world, made his comments in a sermon to members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.
“Now, under the attacks of the world, which speak to us of our sins, we see that to be able to do penance is a grace,” Benedict said, “and we see how necessary it is to do penance — that is, to recognize what is wrong in our lives: to open oneself to forgiveness, to prepare for pardon, to allow oneself to be transformed.”
Earlier in the sermon, Benedict referred to “subtle — and not so subtle — aggression against the church” in wider society.
Benedict himself has become the focus of the abuse scandal following charges that he mishandled several cases of pedophile priests in Germany and the United States before he became pope.
Many cardinals and bishops in the Vatican and around the world have vigorously defended Benedict’s record, but the pope himself has not addressed his role in the sex abuse scandal.
In a sermon on Palm Sunday (March 28), the pope praised God-given “courage that does not allow us to be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion,” which many listeners took as a reference to media coverage of the scandal.
This weekend (April 17-18), Benedict will visit the Mediterranean island nation of Malta, where a Vatican spokesman has said it is possible that the pope will meet with abuse victims, for at least the fourth time since his election in 2005.
Still, the pope’s remarks fell flat with victims’ advocates, who said Benedict will “win headlines for uttering a couple of sentences”
without taking specific steps to protect minors.
“When the pope can’t bring himself to utter the words `pedophile priest’ or `child sex crimes’ or `cover ups’ or `complicit bishops,’
it’s hard to have faith that he is able to honestly and effectively deal with this growing crisis, said Mark Serrano, a spokesman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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