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Pope defiant over child sex abuse

Senior Catholics across Europe use Easter addresses to apologise and acknowledge the damage caused by the scandal, while pontiff remains unrepentant

Riazat Butt, and John Hooper in Rome

Senior Catholics across Europe today apologised for the way the church had dealt with paedophile priests and acknowledged the damage the scandal had caused to its moral authority.

In Easter sermons that revealed penitence, shame and shortcomings, archbishops in Armagh, Dublin, Edinburgh, Vienna and Westminster asked congregations for their forgiveness and urged them not to abandon the church because of past sins.

But there was no apology from Rome, as Benedict XVI maintained a steadfast silence about the crisis in his annual Urbi et Orbi – To the City and the World – address.

The only mention of the turmoil came from Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, who stood before the pope in a packed St Peter’s Square and lauded him as the “unfailing rock” of the Catholic church.

In a departure from protocol, he told the pontiff in a special tribute: “We are deeply grateful for your strength of spirit and the apostolic courage with which you proclaim Christ’s gospel.”

In an apparent reference to the crisis, and employing a term already used by the pope, Sodano said the church would not be intimidated by “idle chatter”.

His appearance was a gesture of defiance and indignation in the face of continued criticism aimed at the Vatican over its response to waves of allegations. The Catholic hierarchy has insisted that the pope is beyond reproach and that the media are conducting a smear campaign against him by exaggerating the scale of the abuse and attempts to conceal it.

However, today saw an unprecedented outpouring of apologies by leading church members across Europe.

Cardinal Sean Brady, the primate of Ireland, admitted that the church failed to involve civil authorities to protect its reputation. Brady, who is under pressure to resign because of his role in making two sex abuse victims sign an oath of silence, said: “I realise that, however unintentionally, however unknowingly, I too allowed myself to be influenced by that culture in our church, and our society.

“I pledge to you that, from now on, my overriding concern will always be the safety and protection of everyone in the church – but especially children and all those who are vulnerable.”

In his Easter homily the archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nicholls, told the faithful that the “serious sins” committed within the Catholic community had been much talked about. He added: “For our part, we have been reflecting on them deeply, acknowledging our guilt and our need for forgiveness.”

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Story compliments of  The Guardian UK