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Don't judge sinners, pope urges, day after abuse letter

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI urged Catholics on Sunday to refrain from judging sinners, a day after he rebuked Irish bishops for their handling of a half-century of sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

While the pope made no mention of the Vatican's widely criticized policy of cloaking abuse allegations in secrecy, a Swiss churchman called for the Holy See to start a registry of molester clergy to avoid more shuttling by bishops of pedophiles from parish to parish.

The pontiff didn't mention his letter chastising Ireland's church hierarchy as he made his weekly appearance from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square. He cited the Gospel passage about Jesus' inviting those without sin to cast the first stone toward an adulterer.

"While acknowledging her sin, he does not condemn her, but urges her to sin no more," Benedict told English-speaking pilgrims in the square.

In Germany, meanwhile, the news magazine Focus quoted the head of the German Bishops Conference as acknowledging that the church consciously covered up cases of sexual abuse.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg said that while most cases happened outside the church, "assaults that took place in such numbers within our institutions shame and frighten me."

On Saturday, Zollitsch apologized personally for a sexual abuse cover-up that happened 20 years ago in a Black Forest community while he was in charge of human resources at the Freiburg diocese.

In the missive made public Saturday by the Vatican, Benedict said Irish bishops made grave errors of judgment about the abuse.

But he didn't blame Vatican policies that kept the abuse secret for making the situation worse, as victims in Ireland, the United States and elsewhere have claimed. He also issued no punishment for derelict Irish bishops.

Abuse scandals involving Catholic dioceses, monasteries and other institutions - including a Regensburg, Germany, boys choir long led by the pope's brother - have been exploding across Europe.

In his letter to the Irish faithful, Benedict apologized to victims but cited no specific punishments to bishops. Investigations sponsored by the Irish government accused the bishops of covering up abuse of thousands of children in parishes, orphanages, workhouses and other church-run institutions from the 1930s to the 1990s.


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