This "isn't the first time the Church has suffered," Cardinal Camillo Ruini said as he reflected on the current state of the Church in an interview with the Italian paper La Republica on Thursday.
Responding to a question about the "dramatic moments" the Catholic Church is living through as Pope Benedict XVI approaches the fifth year of his pontificate, Cardinal Ruini said, "It's is undoubtedly a period of suffering and of trial for the Church, that at the moment revolves around the question of pedophilia."
"But it isn't the first time the Church has suffered," he added. In the past, there have been other trials, other sufferings, always overcome by Providence."
In the current situation, the cardinal said, "there are the objectively very serious sins of some priests and there is a strong desire to put the entire Church and especially the Pope on the bench of the accused: a profoundly unjust and unfounded thing, because Benedict XVI is exactly the opposite of that which they wish to make him appear (to be)."
Reflecting on the scope of the words of Pope Benedict during the Stations of the Cross in 2005 when he spoke of a "cleaning" that needed to take place in the Church, the cardinal said that while pedophilia is a part of the needed cleaning, "it would be mistaken" to read into that statement as strictly pertaining to sexuality.
The "cleaning" mentioned by Pope Benedict should be considered as "a challenge that concerns all of our Christian life, beyond that of priests, and it's a challenge that, as Jesus has taught us, one can hope to win only concentrating before all on Him, (and) therefore on humility and prayer," the cardinal said.
During the interview, Cardinal Ruini said he observes a "profound continuity" between Pope Benedict and two of his predecessors, Popes John Paul II and Paul VI. The current Pope, he noted, can also be noted for the priority that he gives on evangelization.
"It's not only about announcing and testifying of God as our creator and savior," he explained, rather "It's about ... trusting him and putting ourselves in his hands, therefore praying and making space for him, his presence and his grace, in our entire lives.
"Here, the great insistence of Benedict XVI on the liturgy has its origin," he underscored.
Cardinal Ruini recognized the Holy Father's acumen as a "grandissimo" theologian, an "extraordinary homilist and catechist," and, he said, contrary to the thoughts of some, "it's mistaken to think that he takes little care of the government of the Church."
Cardinal Camillo Ruini is a former president of the Italian Bishops' Conference and is now working on the Italian bishops' "Cultural Project," maintaining the Church's presence within contemporary discussion. He was recently named by Pope Benedict XVI to head the investigation commission on the possible Marian apparitions at Medjugorje.