Pope silent on sex controversy

Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square, the Catholic church’s most joyous celebration, began with a senior cardinal defending Pope Benedict XVI from what he called “petty gossip” and hailing him for “unfailing” leadership and courage.

Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithful during his message at the end of the Easter Mass in St. Peter’s square

Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithful during his message at the end of the Easter Mass in St. Peter’s square

VATICAN CITY — Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square, the Catholic church’s most joyous celebration, began with a senior cardinal defending Pope Benedict XVI from what he called “petty gossip” and hailing him for “unfailing” leadership and courage.

But the pontiff himself ignored accusations that he perpetuated a climate of coverup for pedophile priests, even as sex abuse scandals threatened to overshadow his papacy.

The ringing tribute by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, at the start of a Mass attended by tens of thousands of faithful, marked an unusual departure from the Vatican’s Easter rituals, infusing the tradition-steeped religious ceremony with an air of a papal pep rally.

Sodano’s praise for Benedict as well as the church’s 400,000 priests worldwide cranked up a vigorous campaign by the Holy See to counter what it calls a “vile” smear operation orchestrated by anti-Vatican media aimed at weakening the papacy and its moral authority.

The pontiff and many bishops have been assailed by accusations from victims of clergy sexual abuse that Benedict helped shape and perpetuate a climate of coverup toward the crimes against children in parishes, schools, orphanages and other church-run institutions.

Victims and their advocates are demanding that Benedict take personal responsibility.

Yet, Sodano insisted, on Easter the faithful came to “rally close around you, successor to (St.) Peter, bishop of Rome, the unfailing rock of the holy church” amid the joy of Easter.

“We are deeply grateful to you for the strength of spirit and apostolic courage with which you announce the Gospel,” said Sodano, who sought to assure Benedict that the scandals were not costing him credibility among his flock.

“Holy Father, on your side are the people of God, who do not allow themselves to be influenced by the petty gossip of the moment, by the trials which sometimes buffet the community of believers,” Sodano said.

Dressed in gold robes and shielded from a cool drizzle by a canopy, Benedict looked weary during much of the Easter Sunday ceremony, the highlight of a heavy Holy Week schedule. But as he listened intently to Sodano’s paean, a smile broke across the pope’s face, and when the cardinal finished speaking, Benedict rose from his chair in front of the altar to embrace him.

The cardinal also rushed to the defence of all the Catholic priests who “generously serve the people of God, in parishes, recreation centres, schools, hospitals and many other places, as well as in the missions in the most remote parts of the world.”

In early evening, the pope, who turns 83 on April 16, was to fly by helicopter to the papal retreat in Castel Gandolfo, a lakeside town in the Alban Hills south of Rome, where he will greet pilgrims in the palace courtyard on Monday.

Benedict was holding up well against the campaign of “deceitful accusations” against him, Venice Cardinal Angelo Scola said in an interview on Italian state TV Sunday. Scola said he recently had dined with the pope, who was drawing on his “usual spiritual energy.”

Easter Sunday Mass was the last major Holy Week appearance by the pope in Rome for the thousands of faithful who have poured into the city. They cheered Benedict at the end of Sunday’s two-hour-long ceremony in the cobblestone square bedecked with daffodils, tulips and azaleas.

After the Mass, Benedict moved to the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica to deliver his “Urbi et Orbi” message — Latin for “to the city and to the world” — which analyzes humanity’s failings and hopes.

He singled out the “trials and sufferings,” including persecution and even death, of Christians in Iraq and Pakistan, and of people in Haiti and Chile, devastated by earthquakes. He hoped for peaceful coexistence to win out over criminal violence in Latin American countries plagued by drug trafficking, and promised to pray for peace in the Middle East.

His speech ignored demands by victims that he shoulder some responsibility for a common practice by bishops in the past of shuffling pedophile priests from parish to parish rather than sullying the church’s reputation by defrocking clergy who raped, sodomized or otherwise sexually abused minors.

The accusations against the pope stem from his leadership as archbishop of Munich, in his native Germany, before he came to the Vatican three decades ago, as well as his long tenure in Rome leading the Holy See’s office dealing with a growing pile of dossiers about pedophile priests.

Sodano’s words irked a prominent advocacy group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“When we speak up and tell how our childhood innocence was shattered by sexual assaults by priests, it is not ’petty gossip,”’ SNAP president Barbara Blaine said in a statement.

Jewish leaders, and even some top Catholic churchmen, were angered after Benedict’s personal preacher, in a Good Friday sermon, likened the growing accusations against the pope to the campaign of anti-Semitic violence that culminated in the Holocaust.

The preacher, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, told Corriere della Sera daily in an interview Sunday that he had no intention “of hurting the sensibilities of the Jews and of the victims of pedophilia,” expressed regret and asked for forgiveness.

One of the few angry parishioners was 68-year-old Jackson Spears, who said the church should have taken strong action from the beginning.

“I think the pope should have been more aggressive and he should have done something sooner,” Spears said.

“The church shouldn’t condone these things and should have years ago done something about it.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley was in Red Deer Wednesday and addressed a number of different political topics affecting central Alberta. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Notley talks RDC, UCP draft K-6 curriculum in visit to Red Deer

Rachel Notley had only proposed a solution hours before she arrived in… Continue reading

The Bowden Institution medium security facility near Bowden. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Two COVID-19 cases reported at Bowden Institution

Bowden Institution is dealing with two active COVID-19 cases. The positive cases… Continue reading

Photo by RANDY FIEDLER/Advocate staff BUDGET RURAL MEDICINE 2 - Dr. Fred Janke in his Sylvan Lake practice Wednesday. for story
Sylvan Lake doctor formerly accused of child sex crimes can practise again

Crown prosecutors dropped all charges against Dr. Fred Janke last November

Baseball on the Chalk Line of the Infield. Stock image
Innisfail to upgrade ball diamond to feature hardball facility

The Town of Innisfail will soon have a significantly upgraded baseball facility.… Continue reading

Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer rock pianist takes on a talk show role

Curtis Labelle’s Chattin 88 gets views from around the globe

Westerner Park’s Exhibition Hall was used as a vaccination clinic on Wednesday. A steady stream of people came to get their COVID-19 shots either by appointment or as walk-ins. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
No long lineups at walk-in vaccination site in Red Deer

A steady stream of people walked into Westerner Park on Wednesday to… Continue reading

Letisha Reimer is shown in a photo, part of a memorial to her outside Abbotsford Senior Secondary School in Abbotsford, B.C., Monday, Nov.7, 2016. A B.C. Supreme Court judge is expected to deliver her decision today over whether a man who stabbed two high school students is not criminally responsible because he had a mental disorder. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geordon Omand
Judge to rule on criminal responsibility of man who stabbed two B.C. students

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — A British Columbia Supreme Court judge is expected… Continue reading

File photo
Expert says Saskatchewan should consider more targeted vaccine plan as variants surge

SASKATOON — Nazeem Muhajarine says he feels a sense of relief after… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is promising Canada will slash its… Continue reading

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
More supply needed to ease housing price crunch, but always more to do, Freeland says

OTTAWA — Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says the country needs a boost… Continue reading

Smoke pours from the stacks at the Portlands Energy Centre in Toronto on Thursday January 15, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Risk experts say climate change to take big chunk of Canadian economy by 2050

One of the world’s largest insurers says Canadians will be more than… Continue reading

A Blanding’s turtle (Gabrielle Fortin/Contributed)
Earth Day: Finding hope in an old sweater

During the pandemic, many of us have spent several months at home.… Continue reading

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says 1.7 million reusable masks have been ordered at a cost of $4.2 million.” (Advocate file photo).
Alberta teachers and education minister swap accusations of politicizing curriculum

EDMONTON — Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says the group representing Alberta teachers… Continue reading

FILE - In this March 19, 2021, file photo, people take pictures of the Olympic rings installed by the Japan Olympic Museum in Tokyo. The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1% vaccinated. This of course is spilling over to concerns about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that open in just over three months.(AP Photo/Hiro Komae, File)
Olympic bodies launch competitive series in virtual sports

Olympic body hopes to reach more young people

Most Read