VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday urged Catholics to refrain from judging sinners a day after he rebuked Irish bishops for their handling of a half-century of sexual abuse of minors by clergy.
The pontiff didn’t mention his letter chastising Ireland’s church hierarchy as he made his weekly appearance Sunday from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.
He cited the Gospel passage about Jesus’ inviting those without sin to cast the first stone toward an adulterer.
“While acknowledging her sin, he does not condemn her, but urges her to sin no more,” Benedict told English-speaking pilgrims in the square.
“Trusting in his great mercy toward us, we humbly beg his forgiveness for our own failings, and we ask for the strength to grow in his holiness.”
In Germany meanwhile, the news magazine Focus quoted the head of the German Bishops Conference on Sunday as acknowledging that Roman Catholic church consciously covered up cases of sexual abuse.
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg said while most cases happened outside the church, “assaults that took place in such numbers within our institutions shame and frighten me.”
“Every single case darkens the face of the entire church,” he said.
On Saturday, Zollitsch apologized personally for a sexual abuse coverup that happened twenty years ago in a Black Forest community while he was in charge of human resources at the Freiburg diocese.
In the missive made public Saturday by the Vatican, Benedict said Irish bishops made grave errors of judgment about the abuse.
But he didn’t blame Vatican policies that kept the abuse secret for making the situation worse, as victims in Ireland, the United States and elsewhere have claimed.
He also issued no punishment for derelict Irish bishops.
The pope said Jesus taught people to “not judge and not condemn one’s neighbour. Let us learn to be intransigent toward sin — starting with our own (sin) — and indulgent with people.”
Abuse scandals involving Catholic dioceses, monasteries and other institutions — including a Regensburg, Germany, boys choir long led by the pope’s brother — have been exploding across Europe.
Besides the pope’s homeland of Germany, where Benedict once was the archbishop of Munich, other nations such as Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Italy have seen victims come forward recently with allegations of abuse as well as coverups.
Underlings in the Munich archdiocese have sought to spare the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — who became Pope Benedict in 2005 — of any responsibility for the sex abuse scandal.