Pope makes "most thorough admission of Church's guilt" in sex abuse scandals

In a shift from the Vatican's initial claim that the Church was the victim of a campaign by the media and abortion rights and pro-gay marriage groups, reports the Associated Press, Pope Benedict XVI said: "The greatest persecution of the church doesn't come from enemies on the outside but is born from the sins within the church."

The pope made the statement on Tuesday, May 11, while he was at the airport in Lisbon, Portugal. He is in the country for a four-day visit and is set to go to the shrine at Fatima, in central Portugal, today. At least 500,000 people are expected to attend his Mass in Fatima the following day, May 13, the anniversary of the day in 1917 when three Portuguese shepherd children reported visions of the Virgin Mary.

Aside from expressing concern about the forfeiture of traditional values in Europe and criticizing Portugal's abortion law in remarks at Lisbon airport, the pope made "the most thorough admission of the church's guilt in the clerical sex abuse scandal."

"The church needs to profoundly relearn penitence, accept purification, learn forgiveness but also justice," he said, responding to journalists' questions, which were submitted in advance. "Forgiveness cannot substitute justice."

However, critics are demanding more. They pointed out that while the pope has accepted some bishops' resignations, not one of them has been actively punished or defrocked, even those who admitted molesting children.

"Many are tiring of hearing about his 'strong comments.' They want to see strong action," said David Clohessy, director of the main U.S. victims' group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

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