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Jewish groups and victims of sex abuse by Catholic priests have condemned the Pope’s preacher for comparing criticism of the pontiff to anti-Semitism.

US-based abuse victims’ group Snap said the remarks were “morally wrong”.

The head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews described the Easter sermon as unprecedented “insolence”.

The Catholic Church has been rocked by abuse scandals this year. The Vatican said Raniero Cantalamessa’s remarks did not represent its official view.

Drawing such parallels could “lead to misunderstandings”, said spokesman Rev Federico Lombardi.

Fr Cantalamessa’s sermon was printed in full on the front page of the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

The Catholic Church has been engulfed this year by sex abuse scandals, many dating back decades, in Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Austria, the Pope’s native Germany and the US.

At a Good Friday service in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Preacher of the Pontifical Household compared criticism of the Church over abuse allegations to “the collective violence suffered by the Jews”.

Fr Cantalamessa said he had been inspired by a letter from a Jewish friend who had been upset by the “attacks” against the Pope.

He then read part of the letter, in which his friend said he was following “with indignation the violent and concentric attacks against the Church, the Pope and all the faithful of the whole world”.

“The use of stereotypes and the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism,” he quoted the letter as saying, as the Pope listened.

The comments swiftly provoked angry reactions both from Jewish groups and those representing abuse victims.

The secretary general of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Stephan Kramer, told the Associated Press the remarks were “repulsive, obscene and most of all offensive towards all abuse victims as well as to all the victims of the Holocaust”.

A spokesman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap) said the sermon had been “reckless and irresponsible”.

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Article Courtesy bbc.co.uk