Pope Benedict XVI made it clear yesterday that he would not be intimidated by his critics over the ongoing sexual abuse scandal enveloping his Church.
Officiating at Mass in Rome for Palm Sunday, which marks the start of the holiest week in the Catholic Church's calendar, the 82-year-old pontiff's characteristically cryptic sermon made no explicit mention of the global clerical sex abuse scandals that have thrown the Church into its worst crisis in decades.
But he nevertheless fired a broadside against those who have called on him to do more to explain his previous role as the Vatican's head investigator of child abuse claims.
The Pontiff reminded worshippers that belief in Jesus Christ helped lead Christians “towards the courage of not allowing oneself to be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion”.
He also spoke of how man can sometimes “fall to the lowest, vulgar levels” and “sink into the swamp of sin and dishonesty”.
The remarks are widely regarded as a reference to the growing furore over his leadership of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office he headed for more than 20 years before becoming Pope in 2005.
One of the Congregation's primary remits is to investigate any clerical abuse allegations put before it.
But the crisis over sex abuse allegations across Europe and in North America have put the Vatican and the Pope himself firmly on the back foot.