VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI opened Holy Week on Sunday amid one of the most serious crises facing the church in decades, with protesters in London demanding he resign and calls in Switzerland for a central registry for pedophile priests.
Benedict made no direct mention of the scandal in his Palm Sunday homily. But one of the prayers, recited in Portuguese during Mass, was "for the young and for those charged with educating them and protecting them."
Jesus Christ, Benedict said in his homily, guides the faithful "toward the courage that doesn't let us be intimidated by the chatting of dominant opinions, towards patience that supports others."
Palm Sunday commemorates Christ's entry into Jerusalem, and is the start of the church's Holy Week, which includes the Good Friday re-enactment of Christ's crucifixion and death and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
This year, the most solemn week on the Catholic Church's liturgical calendar has been stained by a clerical abuse scandal that has spread across Europe.
In London on Sunday, a few dozen people gathered outside Westminster Cathedral to demand the pope resign. Demonstrators carried placards reading "Pope? Nope!" and "Don't Turn a Blind Eye." The Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols insisted the pope wouldn't — and shouldn't — quit. "In fact, it is the other way around," he told BBC television. "He is the one above all else in Rome that has tackled this thing head on."
In Austria, where several cases have come out in recent weeks, the archbishop of Vienna announced the creation of a church-funded but clergy-free and independent commission to look into Austrian abuse claims.
Swiss President Doris Leuthard told the weekly SonntagsZeitung that Switzerland should consider creating a registry of pedophile priests to prevent them from coming into contact with more children. Church leaders say about 60 people have reported to be victims of priest abuse in Switzerland.