The Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, responded today to an article published in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, which said that Pope Benedict XVI asked Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, to defend him at Easter Mass from attacks over the treatment of sexual abuse cases. Fr. Lombardi replied, "even in difficult times, the Pope does not beg or organize demonstrations in his own defense or support."
In his response to the May 9 Corriere della Sera article, Fr. Lombardi said that the story “makes a completely false assertion that I have a duty to correct.” The article asserted that Pope Benedict XVI had asked Cardinal Sodano for “a few words of greeting, spoken in St. Peter's Square.”
Fr. Lombardi replied:
"Now, for the sake of truth, Benedict XVI had not requested anything. The words of Cardinal Sodano was an initiative of the College of Cardinals, at least those present in Rome, represented by its Dean. The Pope was informed of them very shortly before what would happen. He welcomed the salute with gratitude and simplicity for what it was trying to be, that is, a message of closeness, affection and solidarity."
The Corriere della Sera article also mentioned accusations made by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, against Cardinal Sodano.
Cardinal Schönborn charged, in what was supposed to be a private conversation with Austrian newspaper editors in late April, that when Cardinal Sodano was Secretary of State, he intervened to prevent the future Pope Benedict XVI from directly investigating Cardinal Hans Groer over claims of sexual abuse. Cardinal Schönborn later took over from Cardinal Groer as Archbishop of Vienna.
Fr. Lombardi did not address the accusations made by Cardinal Schönborn against Cardinal Sodano.