VATICAN CITY, May 16 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, facing the worst crisis of his five-year-old Papacy because of a widening sexual abuse scandal, told a crowd of nearly 200,000 on Sunday that Priests must guard against worldly temptation.
Benedict said such tests should drive Catholics to greater spiritual fervour and stricter adherence to Church rules.
"The real enemy to fear and to fight is sin, spiritual ill, which sometimes unfortunately affects even members of the Church," the 83-year-old German Pontiff told the crowd gathered in St Peters square.
"We live in the world but we are not of the world, even if we must guard against its temptations," he said. "The tests that the Lord provides drive us to greater fervour and consistency."
Benedict’s tone marked an extension of the latest change in the Vatican’s response to the abuse scandal, which has forced the resignation of Bishops in Ireland, Belgium and Germany.
In recent weeks, a number of Vatican officials had accused the media, gays or progressives of waging a smear campaign against the Church.
However, earlier last week the Pope said during a trip to Portugal that Catholicism’s greatest threat came from "sins within the Church" and he acknowledged it must seek forgiveness, though this was no substitute for justice.
Sunday’s demonstration of support, organised by an Italian Catholic lay association, brought nearly 200,000 people to the wide circular space before St. Peters basilica.
Many of those who came from across Italy waved banners such as "The people of Rome with the Holy Father" or "Renewing the Holy Spirit".
"Thank you for your presence and your faith," the Pope told the crowd, which interrupted his speech with applause. "Today you demonstrate the great affection and closeness of the Church and the Italian people to the Pope and your Priests."
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, head of the Italian Bishops conference and a close collaborator of the Pope’s, said the Church "purified by penitence should be a place of justice and comfort for the faithful".
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