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Papal preacher calls for fast, a day to atone for sex abuse

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict's personal preacher yesterday urged the pope to call a worldwide day of fasting and penitence to ask forgiveness for the clergy sexual abuse scandals.

The Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, whose official title is "preacher of the papal household," made the suggestion during a pre-Christmas sermon at a Vatican chapel. Benedict was not present.

Cantalamessa said the church had "wept and sighed" recently over "abominations committed by her very ministers and pastors." He said the time had come for the church to "weep before God," to publicly express remorse, and to show solidarity with the victims.

The clergy abuse scandal has affected Catholic dioceses across the United States.

Many priests have been prosecuted and millions has been paid to victims. Scandals have also hit churches in Ireland, among other countries.

Church documents have disclosed that some bishops repeatedly transferred priests accused of abusing minors to other parishes rather than reporting them to police.

Cantalamessa said the church should call a "a day of fasting and penitence, at the local and national level, where the problem was worst, to publicly express sorrow before God and solidarity with the victims."

Such a day would, he said, help the "reconciliation of souls" so the church could get back on the path of doing its work "with a renewed heart."

The Vatican had no immediate comment.

At least one group of victims of abuse said it was not enough. "We would much rather that the pope discipline complicit bishops," said Barbara Blaine, president of the US-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

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