VATICAN CITY — Cardinals across Europe used their Holy Thursday sermons to defend Pope Benedict XVI from accusations he played a role in covering up sex abuse scandals, and an increasingly angry Vatican sought to deflect any criticism in the Western media.
The relationship between the church and the media has become increasingly bitter as the scandal buffeting the 1 billion-member church has touched the pontiff himself. On Wednesday, the church singled out the New York Times for criticism in an unusually harsh attack. A New York Times spokeswoman defended the articles and said no one has cast doubt on the reported facts.
Western news organizations, including the Associated Press, have reported extensively on the burgeoning scandal, and new details have emerged on an almost daily basis.
On Holy Thursday, Benedict first celebrated a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica dedicated to the union between the pope and the world's priests. In the late afternoon, he washed the feet of 12 priests in a ceremony symbolizing humility and commemorating Christ's Last Supper with his 12 apostles on the evening before his Good Friday Crucifixion.
Although there were expectations by some that the pope would address the crisis, Benedict made no reference to the scandal at either ceremony.
Venice's Cardinal Angelo Scola, Warsaw Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz and Vienna's Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn expressed solidarity with Benedict.