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Pope in Portugal

By United Press International
Pope Benedict XVI shown in a file photo from 2009. (UPI Photo/Yannis Behrakis/Pool)
Pope Benedict XVI shown in a file photo from 2009. (UPI Photo/Yannis Behrakis/Pool) | License Photo

LISBON, Portugal, May 11 (UPI) -- Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Portugal Tuesday for his for international trip since an abuse scandal flared to include clergy in several European countries.

Allegations of abuse arose this spring in Ireland, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and the pope's native Germany. Benedict this week accepted the resignation of a German bishop, who admitted to "boxing the ears" of children but denied any sexual abuse.

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The Roman Catholic Church has come under increasing scrutiny as charges come up that priests sexually abused children and church hierarchy may have played a role in covering up the allegations.

"The biggest weight on the church doesn't come from the enemies outside but is born from sin inside the church," Benedict said while en route to Portugal.

"The church has a profound need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn on the one hand forgiveness but also the necessity of justice. And forgiveness does not substitute justice."

The pope, 83, is to visit Lisbon, Fatima and Oporto during his four-day trip to Portugal. The Vatican said he'll speak on the economic crisis as well and spiritual matters.

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His trip to Fatima is timed to the anniversary of when three children in 1917 first reported they'd seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary. The location is an important pilgrimage site for Catholics.