VATICAN CITY, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Pope Benedict XVI called Thursday for "purification" of the Roman Catholic Church in the wake of the sexual abuse scandals involving Catholic clergy.
The message was one of the pope's strongest statements so far on the impact of the scandal. It was expressed in a letter to Archbishop Dionigi Tettamanzi of Milan honoring the 400th anniversary of the canonization of Saint Carlo Borromeo, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. Borromeo, archbishop of Milan in the 16th century, was one of the great leaders of the counter-reformation, instituting reforms including seminary training for priests.
In the letter, Benedict said the church is enduring "trials and suffering." He said individual and institutional conversion is needed for "purification" and reform must come from "penance and suffering."
The sexual abuse scandal spread from the United States to Ireland and then elsewhere in Europe. There have recently been allegations that Benedict, as Cardinal Josef Ratzinger before his elevation to pope, encouraged bishops to shield abusive priests.