Pope refuses to be 'intimidated by petty gossip' over sex abuse
Pope Benedict XVI insisted yesterday the Catholic Church would "not be intimidated" by the sex scandals in which it had become embroiled.
In a clear sign that the Vatican continues to insist the abuse claims are part of a conspiracy, the 82-year-old Pontiff said: "From God comes the courage not to be intimidated by petty gossip."
He did not mention directly the crisis that has seen claims from Ireland, Germany, Austria, Holland and Brazil of abuse by priests, but his message appeared clear.
The scandal did not deter thousands of pilgrims from flocking to St Peter's Square to applaud him.
Last week 'L'Osservatore Romano', the Vatican's newspaper, said the allegations were part of an "ignoble attempt to strike at the Pope and his closest collaborators".
In his address, the Pope said: "Christ guides us towards goodness and does not let us be disarmed by ingratitude."
He also spoke of how man could sometimes "fall to the lowest, vulgar levels".
The Pope faces fresh accusations after it emerged that he had been present at a meeting where church officials decided to allow an alleged paedophile priest to continue working.
He has been drawn into the scandal, with claims that he knew about the cases of Fr Lawrence Murphy, an American priest suspected of molesting boys between 1950 and 1975, and Fr Peter Hullermann, a German priest convicted of abusing boys in 1986.
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was involved in the decision to send Hullermann to Munich for therapy. He was allowed to return to pastoral duties just days later.
The church has insisted that the then Cardinal Ratzinger was unaware of the decision to allow Hullermann to return to pastoral work.
But reports last week claimed he was included on a memo stating that this would be the case.
The Vatican has vehemently denied any cover-up and defended the Pope.
Fr Federico Lombardi, his spokesman, said the Pontiff's response to the abuse crisis had been "effective" and that he had always followed a policy of "zero tolerance". (© Daily Telegraph, London)