In the past couple of years, more and more sex abuse victims have come forward to reveal that they had been molested by priests when they were children.
Last year alone, it was discovered that as many as 450 people have made abuse allegations against former priests in Ireland, the Telegraph.co.uk reports. The abuse had been happening since 1940.
On March 20, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI made the move to address the damaging issue by writing a pastoral letter to the victims of the priests' abuse.
Though the eight-page letter expressed his remorse over what had transpired, The New York Times pointed out: "Even as Benedict urged Irish clergy to cooperate with civil justice authorities, the abuse scandals have put to the test a Vatican culture of protecting its own even in the face of crimes against civil and canon law."
While some welcomed the Pope's words, there were many who, like Irish singer Sinead O'Connor, wrote off the pastoral letter. In an Advocate.com article, O'Conner said: "It's a study in the fine art of lying and actually betraying your own people. He starts by saying that he's writing with great concern for the people of Ireland. If he was that concerned, why has it taken him 23 years to write a letter, and why did he or the last pope never get on an airplane and come to meet the victims in any of these countries and apologize?"
Indeed, other shocking sex scandals have rocked the Church in the past. Aside from Ireland's victims, 67 former pupils of Italy's Antonio Provolo Institute for the Deaf revealed in 2009 that they had been subjected to sexual abuse and corporal punishment from the 1950s to the 1980s, reports Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press. They victims identified 24 priests, brothers, and lay religious men as their abusers.
Just this month, The New York Times revealed that Vatican officials–including Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI–failed to defrock Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy who molested as many as 200 deaf boys from 1950 to 1974 at a school in Wisconsin.
With these highly-charged issues brewing, the Pope marked Palm Sunday at the Vatican with the traditional procession and the waving of palm fronds and olive branches by the faithful.