Pope stresses historic role of priests
Pope Benedict XVI Sunday stressed the key role played by priests throughout history, as the "Year for Priests" wrapped up tarnished by the paedophile scandals rocking the Church.
"If we look at history, we see how many pages of authentic spiritual and social renewal have been written thanks to the decisive contribution from Catholic priests," the pope said during Angelus prayer at the Vatican.
The pontiff singled out Polish priest Jerzy Popieluszko, who was beatified in Warsaw on June 6 having been arrested and killed by the secret police in 1984.
He also named the recent beatifications of Spanish journalist Manuel Lozano Garrido and Slovenian resistance fighter Lojze Grozde.
The Roman Catholic Church has since late last year been embroiled in a series of sex abuse scandals across Europe and the United States, prompting harsh criticism of the Vatican's handling of the scourge.
On Friday, officially closing the Year for Priests, the pontiff begged for forgiveness for "abuse of the little ones," in his clearest apology yet.
Late last year, Ireland was rocked by two successive reports revealing widespread abuse mainly of boys by priests going back decades, coupled with the Church hierarchy's complicity in covering it up.
Revelations then spread to the pope's native Germany, Belgium, Austria, United States, Brazil and other countries.
The pope himself has faced allegations that, as archbishop of Munich and later as the Vatican's chief morals enforcer, he helped to protect predator priests.
© 2010 AFP