Italian Catholics rallied round the Pope on Easter Sunday, and there was a marked departure from tradition in the Easter Mass.
After the Pope was seated, and shortly before the mass began, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, a former secretary of state at the Vatican and the head of the College of Cardinals, gave a speech of support, insisting the church’s 400,000 bishops and priests stood by him;
“Holy Father, on your side are the people of God who do not let themselves be influenced by the petty gossip of the moment.”
It was the only reference during the entire ceremony to the sex scandal that is engulfing the Roman Catholic Church. The Pope made no reference to it in his mass.
“We hope above all that this moment of Easter also helps us all to unite and overcome the critics.”
“Everyone should be free to criticise, but one should criticise if there are no acts and no proof,” were just two opinions expressed from members of the congregation of about 60,000 gathered in St.Peter’s square.
Catholic leaders in Britain and Ireland did devote parts of their Easter messages to the crisis.
“Crimes against children have indeed been committed, and any Catholics who were aware of such crimes and did not act to report them brings shame on us all,” said Cardinal Keith O’Brien in Scotland.
In Ireland protestors attempted to interrupt Easter mass in Dublin, and Archbishop Martin was heckled as he entered the cathederal. Children’s shoes were hung outside in memory of the abuse victims. Some protestors attempted to place shoes on the altar, but most were refused entry.