Priest sex abuse to be top papal priority

Feb. 21, 2013 at 2:33 PM

SAO PAULO, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The next Roman Catholic pope's primary priority will be confronting priest sex abuse scandals, a top cardinal said Thursday in Brazil.

Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo of Brazil said the successor to Benedict XVI -- who is retiring -- will be chosen "for his ability to deal with the new challenges facing the Roman Catholic Church, among which are pedophilia and covering it up," the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

The 79-year-old Agnelo was a papal contender 2005 when the outgoing pope was chosen to succeed Pope John Paull II.

The conclave to chose the next pope will face "great expectations," he said.

"The biggest challenge for the Church, for the cardinals and the bishops," Agnelo said, "will be to bring an end to the pedophilia cover-up scandals, to keep those guilty out of the clerical state and to foster a new generation of priests."

U.S.prosecutors have recently called two American cardinals for questioning about sex abuse cases.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, was questioned this week about allegations of sex abuse by priests in the Milwaukee archdiocese he headed from 2002 until 2009.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, formelry archbishop of Los Angeles, is to be questioned Saturday about a visiting Mexican priest alleged to have molested 26 children in 1987.

Advocacy groups have called on Mahony to skip the conclave, but Agnelo said canon law makes it impossible to stop a cardinal from coming to the conclave and voting for the next pope.

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