LISBON, Portugal, May 11 (UPI) -- The Roman Catholic Church is more persecuted by "sin in the church," Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday, discussing the sexual abuse scandals.
The pope talked to reporters during a flight from Rome to Lisbon, The New York Times reported. He plans to spend four days in Portugal, including a visit to the shrine at Fatima to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the beatification of two shepherd children who had a vision there of the Virgin Mary.
"This we have always known, but today we see it in a really terrifying way, that the greatest persecution of the church does not come from the enemies outside but is born from the sin in the church," he added. "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."
Benedict's statements contrasted with those made recently by some Vatican officials accusing the news media of exaggerating the problem of clerical abuse by children.
The pope also discussed economic justice, an important issue in Portugal, which has been hit hard by the financial crisis.