Pope victim of hate campaign -- Vatican
Cardinals defend Benedict over cover-up charges
The Vatican angrily defended Pope Benedict XVI last night, claiming accusations that he helped cover up the actions of paedophile priests are part of an anti-Catholic "hate" campaign.
They also said that the Pope was being targeted for his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.
Two senior cardinals went on the attack on Vatican Radio explaining "the motive for these attacks" on the pope.
"The Pope defends life and the family, based on marriage between a man and a woman, in a world in which powerful lobbies would like to impose a completely different" agenda, Cardinal Julian Herranz, head of the disciplinary commission for Holy See officials, was quoted as saying.
Cardinal Herranz didn't identify the alleged lobbies, but "defence of life" is Vatican shorthand for anti-abortion efforts.
Also rallying to Pope Benedict's side was Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, who heads the Vatican City State's governing apparatus.
The Pope "has done all that he could have" against sex abuse by clergy of minors, Cardinal Lajolo said on the station, decrying what he described as a campaign of "hatred against the Catholic church."
Sex abuse allegations, as well as accusations of cover-ups by diocesan bishops and Vatican officials, have swept across Europe in recent weeks.
Pope Benedict has been criticised for not halting the actions of abusive priests when he was a Vatican cardinal and earlier while he was the archbishop of Munich in his native Germany.
The scandals in Germany, Italy, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland are erupting after decades of abuse cases in the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland and many other areas.
In Germany, nearly 2,700 people called the church's sexual abuse hotline in the first three days it was operating, a Catholic church spokesman said yesterday.
Benedict has ignored victims' demands that he accept responsibility for what they say is his own personal and institutional responsibility for failing to swiftly kick abusive priests out of the priesthood, or at least keep them away from children.
But he has been protected by a vanguard of senior Vatican prelates who are fending off what they contend is an orchestrated attempt to attack the leader of the world's more than one billion Catholics.