Pope: Church must admit to sin

2010-05-11 17:18

Lisbon – Pope Benedict XVI said on Tuesday the crisis of sexual abuse of children by priests should make the Church acknowledge the "terrifying" truth that its greatest threat comes from "sin within the Church".

In some of the most comprehensive public comments since the scandal broke two months ago, Benedict told reporters the Church has "a very deep need" to acknowledge that it must do penitence for its sins and "accept purification".

"Today we see in a truly terrifying way that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from outside enemies but is born of sin within the Church," he told reporters on the plane taking him to Portugal, in response to a question about the sexual abuse scandal.

In recent weeks, a number of Vatican officials have accused the media of waging a smear campaign against the Church, with one top Vatican official going as far as dismissing reports of a cover-up of sexual abuse as "petty gossip".

The 83-year-old German pontiff, facing the worst crisis of his five-year-old papacy, said the Church had to seek forgiveness from victims of sexual abuse but also recognised that "forgiveness cannot be a substitute for justice".

The main purpose of the pope's four-day visit to Portugal is to visit the shrine at Fatima where the Madonna is said to have appeared to three shepherd children six times in 1917.