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Pope pledges not to be 'intimidated'

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 28 March 2010

The Pope has said he will not be "intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion" over the child abuse scandal, as he addressed thousands of people at his Palm Sunday service.

Pope - Reuters

Pope Benedict XVI, who last weekend apologised to the victims of child abuse within the Catholic Church, did not refer directly to the scandal in the service in St Peter's Square in Rome.

However he did pray to God to help "the young and those who work to educate and protect them."

He opened Holy Week amid fears that it could be overshadowed by the ongoing abuse scandal and claims that he was involved in a cover-up.

Victims from a host of countries, including Ireland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, have spoken out about the abuse they have suffered at the hands of Catholic priests.   

From Rome, Jonathan Rugman, Channel 4 News' foreign affairs correspondent, blogged about his meeting with the victims.

"Dario Laiti said that all they wanted was justice," he writes. "And that the media spotlight was ensuring that they would get it at last."

In London, which the Pope is due to visit in September as part of an official visit to the UK, around 50 protesters gathered outside Westminster Abbey today to demand the Pope's resignation.

The protest, organised by the 'Protest the Pope' coalition, is being led by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. The group is opposed to the Pope's state visit, and this demonstration is its first event.

The organisation said that the Pope's role in covering-up the abuse scandal should not be underestimated.

Tatchell said: "On every single count, the Pope is complicit. An accomplice to the cover-up of child sex abuse. In these circumstances, the Pope has lost his moral and religious authority and we believe he should resign."  

The pressure on the Pope follows last night's news that the Northern Ireland Executive is set to launch an investigation into child abuse in the Catholic Church and other state institutions, and continued calls for the most senior cleric in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, to resign.  

Catholic commentator Michael Walsh told Channel 4 News that the vast majority of Catholics were untouched by the scandal.

"One of the things the Vatican tends to forget is how remote it is from the ordinary person in the pew," he said.

"On the whole, in this country people I think feel fairly safe. Every parish is supposed to have its child protection officer and so on, as well as one in the diocese."

He said it was unlikely that the Pope's visit to the UK would be cancelled as a result of the protests, but said that the Pope's lack of popularity meant that there could be less turn-out to see him than when his predecessor, John Paul II, visited the UK.

"People will turn out to see him, but he doesn't have the same charisma as John Paul II when he came to Britain, and thousands and thousands of people turned out."




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