The Pope has said the abuse of children by priests shows that the greatest threat to Catholicism comes from ‘sin within the church’‘
The statement, the most comprehensive by Benedict since a wave of fresh scandals broke two months ago, came ahead of a state visit to Portugal.
Speaking on the plane before travelling to Lisbon, the 83 year-old German pontiff said: ‘‘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.’‘
Benedict also said ‘forgiveness was not a substitute for justice.’
In Lisbon, people had their own take on the crisis.
“I do not believe that things are as they say. This is more a rumour against Christians,” said one man.
“If there is anything wrong, all of us and the Church should recognise the mistakes,” said another.
The Pope’s comments run counter to some senior members of the Vatican who have accused the media of waging a smear campaign.
Benedict is in Portugal for four days to visit a shrine to the Virgin Mary in Fatima.