Pope's preacher urges atonement over sex abuse by priests

WORLD DIGEST

December 16, 2006|By Los Angeles Times

ROME -- The pope's official pastor called yesterday for a worldwide day of fasting and penance to seek forgiveness for the sexual abuse by some priests of "the smallest members" of the Roman Catholic Church.

Speaking to Pope Benedict XVI and his top associates in a pre-Christmas sermon, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa said that the church had paid a high price for "abominations" committed by abusive priests but that deeper atonement was necessary, including a public expression of sorrow and solidarity with victims.

"The time has come to do the most important thing: cry before God," Cantalamessa said.

As preacher of the papal household, his formal title, Cantalamessa is the only cleric who pronounces sermons to the pope. In his meditation yesterday, he touched on a topic that, while receiving enormous attention in the United States, is only occasionally addressed in public here.

The sexual-abuse scandal exploded in 2002, infecting dioceses throughout the United States, as well as Europe and Asia, and involving scores of priests and victims. Historically, it was revealed, church leaders often transferred pedophile priests rather than turn them over to law-enforcement authorities.

The church has been hit with expensive lawsuits. For example, the Los Angeles Archdiocese has agreed to pay $60 million to 45 people who said they were abused by priests.

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