.- Catholic leaders from around the world have expressed solidarity with the Pope in a united response to attempts by some media sources to connect him personally to cases of sexual abuse which reached a boiling point over Holy Week. One prelate remarked that the coincidence of the media pressure with the arrival of Easter is no accident.
L'Osservatore Romano (LOR), reported the words of many Catholic bishops in its Sunday edition, among which were comments from Archbishop of Santo Domingo, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez. In a press conference last week, he said that Benedict XVI has maintained firmness, transparency and severity in reacting to cases, although some media outlets seek to "undervalue facts and force interpretations."
The archbishop from the Dominican Republic went on to say that the underlying cause for the offensive by some against the Pope in the U.S. and Europe is due to the firm position of the Church "in defense of life and its rejection of the crime of abortion."
Attempts have been made by some media sources in recent days to tie the Pope to the mishandling of cases of abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, where he served 30 years ago, and to others which reached the Vatican while he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Mexican Bishop Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel of San Cristobal de Las Casas, spoke on Sunday of the Pope's line of actions, saying "while he was archbishop of Munich and later in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he always treated these cases with extreme delicateness and utmost responsibility."
Cardinal Norberto Rivera said from Mexico City, where he is Archbishop, that the Church will in no way tolerate or defend any act of sexual abuse of minors and that because of the actions of "some dishonest and criminal priests" the Pope has had to confront "defamation and attacks" marked by "lies and cowardice."
Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, in his homily during the Chrism Mass last week said that through the trials of the Church in these moments, "we must also notice the offensive of the audiovisual media that celebrate Easter in their way concentrating on Holy Week their criticisms of the Church and of the Christian faith."
The Cardinal continued to say that the most vulnerable to these attacks are those who are "less informed and less involved in the life of the Church" who are "bombarded by messages that present themselves as criticisms but that are nothing more than operations of propaganda... gross propaganda."
"In our democratic countries, Christians are still citizens on a level with all others but they are certainly not so in the treatment received by the information media," he asserted.
LOR underlined in the article that together with these and other messages, the Church adds the "painful admission of the faults to the past," and it will not allow any attempts at intimidation to distract it from "the duty to provide clarification."
In an interview with Italy's La Stampa, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, said that "the criticisms and the incomprehensions" have always existed and will always exist. "Our duty is to preach the word of Christ to all."
He added that "there will always be those who won't retain as sufficient or adequate our actions or reparations, but that which counts is the effectiveness of the intervention and the purity of hear with which it is carried out for the common good."
Cardinal Etchegaray also emphasized that following the example of Pope Benedict XVI "is the way that leads out of this storm."