Pope blames Catholic church's own sins for child sexual abuse cases The pontiff says church must embrace penitence, purification, forgiveness and justice in response to wave of scandal Associated Press guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 11 May 2010 14.23 BST Article history Pope Benedict XVI greets followers in Lisbon. The pontiff said at the start of his four-day visit to Portugal that a wave of child sexual abuses scandals involving Catholic priests were the result of the church's own sin. Photograph: Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images Pope Benedict XVI today blamed the church's own sins for the clerical abuse scandal and called for profound purification to end what he called the "greatest persecution" the church has endured. His strong comments placed the blame for the crisis squarely on the sins of paedophile priests, in sharp contrast to the Vatican's initial response to the scandal, in which it blamed the media as well as pro-choice and pro-gay marriage advocates for mounting a campaign against the church and the pope. Speaking en route to Portugal, the pontiff said the Catholic church had always suffered from problems of its own making, but that "today we see it in a truly terrifying way". He said: "The greatest persecution of the church doesn't come from enemies on the outside, but is born from the sins within the church. The church needs to profoundly relearn penitence, accept purification, learn forgiveness but also justice." The pope was responding to journalists' questions, submitted in advance, aboard the papal plane. His four-day visit to Portugal will take him from Lisbon to the revered shrine at Fatima and Portugal's second city, Porto. It is not known whether Benedict would make further remarks about the scandal during the trip. There have been no reported cases of sex abuse in Portugal, unlike in Malta, where Benedict met with abuse victims on a trip there last month. Despite the Vatican's initial, defensive response to hundreds of clerical abuse reports in Europe, Benedict has called for penance and promised that the church would take action to protect children and make abusive priests face justice. He has also accepted the resignations of a number of bishops in recent weeks who either admitted they had molested youngsters or covered up for priests who had. Last week the pope took control of the conservative Legionaries of Christ order after it was discredited by revelations that its founder fathered at least one child and sexually abused young seminarians. The Vatican official in charge of handling sex abuse cases has said he would not be surprised if the pope asks for other resignations.