Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Sunday, 28 March 2010 15:50 UK

Archbishop Nichols says sex abuse anger 'justifiable'

Archbishop Vincent Nichols: "The Pope will not resign"

The leader of Catholics in England and Wales has said just one case of child abuse was enough to create "justifiable anger" but the issue could be tackled.

The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, said the "anger and dismay" over the alleged cover up of sex abuse by some Catholic clergy was "proper".

But he said allegations about the Pope's involvement were unfounded.

The Pope has been criticised over his handling of the 1990s case of a US priest suspected of abusing children.

The Archbishop told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show England and Wales had had its "fair share of abuse", but "handled it properly" in an "open and transparent way".

But he said child abuse was probably the most hidden crime - with 75% of the abuse in this country taking place within the family - and cases would "take a long time to emerge".

The buck stops with [the Pope] and he should resign
Activist Peter Tatchell

Archbishop Nichols also staunchly defended Pope Benedict XVI, saying he had introduced changes into Church law to protect children.

"He pushed forward for example a fast-track to defrock priests who have committed abuse. He changed the statute of limitations in Church law.

"He changed the law so that sexual offences committed with anyone under the age of 18 would be a crime in Church law," he said.

Meanwhile members of Westminster Cathedral's congregation have clashed with placard-carrying protesters who were demonstrating against the Pope.

The Protest the Pope coalition called for the Pope to resign over claims he failed to ensure priests who abused young people were reported to police.

They called for an investigation and said the head of the Roman Catholic Church had to take personal responsibility in particular cases.

He has been accused of failing to act over complaints during the 1990s about US priest, Fr Lawrence Murphy, who was alleged to have abused some 200 deaf boys.

Protester holding anti-Pope placards
The Protest the Pope coalition believe the Pope should resign

As head of the Vatican office dealing with sex abuses, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger allegedly did not respond to letters from an archbishop on the case.

His intervention, following a plea by the priest concerned, also resulted in the halting of a church trial.

The Vatican newspaper denied this, calling the claims a "smear" attempt.

Activist Peter Tatchell, who helped organise the demonstration, claimed the pontiff ordered a cover-up in a 2001 edict to Catholic Bishops worldwide.

Mr Tatchell said: "The buck stops with him and he should resign."

But congregation member, Ellen Carhill, 66, said: "The Pope will never resign, it is not possible. He can only apologise for what other people have done."

"Instead of letting it rest, they are going to town on this. How are things going to get better if they prolong it?"

The Pope has apologised to victims of abuse before and recently said sorry in a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics.

He said he acknowledged the sense of betrayal in the Church felt by victims and their families.

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