Wednesday, April 07, 2010

vatican priest likens child-abuse furor to anti-semitism

NPR | Pope Benedict XVI's personal preacher on Friday likened accusations against the pope and the Catholic church in the sex abuse scandal to "collective violence" suffered by the Jews.

Reaction from Jewish groups and victims of clerical sex abuse ranged from skepticism to fury.

The Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa said in a Good Friday homily with the pope listening in St. Peter's Basilica that a Jewish friend wrote to him to say the accusations remind him of the "more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism."

The 82-year-old pontiff looked weary as he sat near the central altar during the early evening prayer service before he was scheduled to take part in a candlelit Way of the Cross procession near the Colosseum that commemorates Christ's suffering before his crucifixion.

The Vatican later officially distanced itself from Cantalamessa 's Good Friday remarks.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi contacted The Associated Press in Rome to say such parallelism can lead to misunderstandings. He said the comments did not represent the position of the Church and that Cantalamessa was not speaking as a Vatican official.

Thousands of Holy Week pilgrims were in St. Peter's Square as the church defends itself against accusations that Benedict had a role in covering up sex abuse cases.

The "coincidence" that Passover falls in the same week as Easter celebrations prompted Cantalamessa to think about Jews, said the preacher, a Franciscan who offers reflections at Vatican Easter and Advent services.

"They know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence and also because of this they are quick to recognize the recurring symptoms," the preacher said.

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