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Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2006, 19:34 GMT
Call for Church sex abuse penance
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict has said sex abuse by priests had created deep wounds
Pope Benedict has been urged to declare a day of fasting and penitence over child sex crimes by clergy in the Roman Catholic Church.

The call by the Pope's personal preacher came in a pre-Christmas sermon to the pontiff and Vatican officials.

The Church has been rocked by a series of child sex abuse scandals in recent years, particularly in North America and Ireland.

Pope Benedict has said that the abuses had created deep wounds in the Church.

Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher to the papal household, is the only person allowed to preach to the Pope.

'Cry before God'

In his sermon to the Pope, he said the Church should hold "a day of fasting and penitence... to publicly express repentance before God and solidarity with the victims".

He said the moment had come "to cry before God... for the scandal inflicted on the smallest of its brothers".

There has been no public reaction from Pope Benedict, but he said recently that the Church must take all necessary steps to prevent further occurrences of child sex abuse by clergy

In the US, a Boston-based scandal in 2002 led to the prosecutions of a number of priests, large payouts to dozens of victims and allegations of a cover-up by senior clergy.

In March, a report from the Archdiocese of Dublin said that more than 100 Catholic priests in Dublin were suspected of having abused children in the last 66 years.

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