At Easter Mass, "Gossip" Returns
However, as was controversially the case at the Good Friday liturgy, another ringing defense of the pontiff was delivered by a prominent cleric -- this time the dean of the College of Cardinals, the retired Secretary of State Angelo Sodano.
In a unique address of homage to B16 at the liturgy's start, the 82 year-old prelate echoed B16's oblique Palm Sunday reference to the Catholic world's widest emergence yet of clergy sex-abuse scandals, which sparked outrage among survivors' groups and others seeking a papal response.
No text of the cardinal-dean's greeting having yet emerged, here, the AP brief:
[Sodano's intervention] underscored the Vatican's determination to defend Benedict from accusations that he was part of a culture of secrecy toward handling sex accusations involving clergy during the time before he became pope.Second in precedence to the Pope himself, while the dean of the College -- a post held by Joseph Ratzinger prior to his 2005 election -- was the logical choice to offer the remarks, Sodano's turn was even more pointed in light of the late-week reports circulated prominently in Europe and the US linking the former Stato chief to the protection of the disgraced founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, in the face of the now-Pope's 2001 calls for an investigation of Maciel, whose removal from ministry was approved by Benedict some 20 months before the Mexican cleric's 2008 death.
Benedict looked weary as he listened to Sodano's speech. A canopy on the central steps of St. Peter's Basilica shielded him from light rain.
Sodano said that, despite the rain, the atmosphere should be considered sunny.
"With this spirit today we rally close around you, successor to (St.) Peter, bishop of Rome, the unfailing rock of the Holy church of Christ, to sing with you the Alleluia of Christian faith and hope," Sodano told the pope.
"Holy Father, on your side are the people of God, who do not let themselves be influenced by the petty gossip of the moment, by the trials which sometimes buffet the community of believers."'
Tens of thousands of pilgrims, tourists and Romans turned out despite the weather.
Sunday's edition of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano denounced the accusations against the pope as a "vile defamation operation," while Vatican Radio called for "solidarity" with the "bombarded" pontiff amid what it termed "a defamatory campaign to delegitimize the church."
Meanwhile, the preacher of the Papal Household, Capuchin Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, has apologized for the portion of his Good Friday homily which ignited a firestorm by comparing "the violent and concentric attacks against the church, the Pope and all the faithful by the whole world" with "the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism."
In an interview with today's Corriere della Sera, the traditional sermonist at the Vatican's Good Friday rites underscored that Benedict had no advance warning of the quote -- which Cantalamessa cited from a letter he received from a Jewish friend.
No Vatican officials have ever vetted his homilies in advance, he said, "something I hold as a great act of trust in me and in the media."
As the high-octane close of the Friday homily -- dedicated mostly to the scourge of religious and domestic violence -- was being delivered, one member of the papal party looking on said afterward that Benedict appeared keen to "fall through the floor" on hearing his preacher's analogy.
PHOTO: AP(1); Getty(2)