VATICAN CITY (WKOW) -- Pope Benedict XVI opened Holy Week against a background of one of the most serious crises facing the Catholic church in decades.
Sunday, the pope faced questions about his handling of cases of pedophile priests, and the Vatican acknowledged its "moral credibility" was on the line.
Benedict made no mention of the scandal in his Palm Sunday homily, however, one of the prayers was "for the young and for those charged with educating them and protecting them."
Until recently, Benedict had received high marks for his handling of sex abuse. But, in recent weeks, the Vatican has been on the defensive amid mounting questions about the pope's handling of sex abuse cases both when he was archbishop of Munich and when he headed the Vatican's doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was Munich archbishop when a priest was allowed to resume pastoral work with children even while receiving therapy for pedophilia. He was subsequently convicted of abusing minors.
In addition, a case has come to light in which Ratzinger's deputy at the Congregation told bishops in Wisconsin to squash a church trial for a priest alleged to have abused up to 200 deaf boys.
The Vatican insists Ratzinger was unaware of the Munich priest's move to the pastoral job and has defended its handling of the Wisconsin case.
Benedict has only publicly spoken out about the scandal in Ireland, writing a letter to the Irish faithful last week in which he chastised Irish bishops for leadership shortcomings and errors in judgement for failing to apply church law to stop abusive priests.
On Saturday, a Vatican spokesman acknowledged that the way the church responded to the abuse scandal was "crucial for its moral credibility" but noted that most of the cases that had come to light recently occurred decades ago.
"But recognizing them and making amends to the victims is the price of re-establishing justice and 'purifying memories' that will let us look with renewed commitment together with humility and trust in the future," the spokesman said in a statement on Vatican Radio.
The comments indicated that the Vatican is now looking at the scandal as a way to purify itself so that it can emerge renewed and strengthened.