Faithful welcome new line on abuse despite protests
POPE Benedict XVI has made his strongest condemnation to date of the Vatican's failure to act decisively against clerical child abuse.
In an unexpected move, while travelling from Rome to Edinburgh on his historic first official visit to the United Kingdom, he attempted to difuse the sex scandals which threatened to overshadow his trip.
The Pope told reporters that the authorities in the Catholic Church were not vigilant enough when complaints were made by parents that their children had been raped by priests.
He also conceded that the Vatican did not act quickly and firmly enough to take the necessary action.
In spite of his repeated assurance of his determination to address the abuse crisis, victims of abuse last night pointed out that he had not yet met their demand of acknowledging that there had been a systematic cover-up by the Vatican.
But leaders of the church in Scotland were relieved at the Pope's remarks, in which he said that his priority was to rebuild healing for victims and also to rebuild their trust in the sincerity of the church in protecting children.
Pope Benedict's intervention took away attention from a protest in Edinburgh by Ian Paisley, the former first minister of the Northern Ireland Executive.
At a protest ceremony in the Magdalen Chapel in the Cowgate district of Edinburgh, Mr Paisley said that he had received a deputation of Catholic parents about "matters of great trouble in the Roman Catholic Church".
Dr Paisley said that parents told him how worried they had been over what happened to their children and why there had not been a definite stand taken by the Pope on this particular issue.
During the four-day visit, Pope Benedict plans to hold a meeting with victims of clerical abuse, the Vatican spokesman Father Fedirico Lombardi revealed.
But the leader of the Scottish church, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, said this meeting would not take place in Scotland but would be in either London or Birmingham in the next three days.
Contrary to public concerns in the build-up to the visit, Pope Benedict's message against "aggressive secularism" was not overshadowed or even dominated by the abuse scandals.
Indeed, the quietly-spoken and scholarly 83-year-old Pontiff won over the minds, if not the hearts, of his audiences in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
His main message to both Scottish Catholics of Irish immigrants and to Protestants loyal to Presbyterianism on the 450th anniversary of the Scottish reformation was to practise their faith in the face of public opposition from advocates of 'Relativism', which would close religion out of civic life and erode Christian values.
Pointedly, at his speech in the palace of Holyroodhouse, Pope Benedict warned that a modern and multi-cultural society should show respect for traditional values.
Warm support for this came from Britain's Queen Elizabeth, head of the Church of England, who in welcoming Benedict to Scotland stressed that religion has always been a crucial element in national identity and historical self-consciousness.
She added that the relationship between people of different religious faiths was a fundamental factor in the necessary co-operation within and between nation states.