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News Wrap: Vatican Distances Itself from Minister’s Remarks

In other news, Pope Benedict's personal minister sparked outrage on Good Friday by comparing criticism of the pope over church abuse scandals to "collective violence" against Jews. Also, Afghan President Hamid Karzai tried to smooth relations with the U.S. after reports he again blamed election fraud on Western interference.

Read the Full Transcript


    Now: the other news of the day.

    Here's Kwame Holman in our newsroom.


    The Vatican faced new criticism on this Good Friday in the storm of accusations the pope helped cover up the clergy sex abuse scandal. It began with remarks by the pontiff's personal minister.

    In his Good Friday sermon, the Reverend Raniero Cantalamessa compared accusations against the pope to collective violence visited upon the Jews. He spoke with Pope Benedict XVI seated close by.

    REV. RANIERO CANTALAMESSA, preacher to the Papal household: I have received in these days a letter from a Jewish friend, and, with his permission, I will share with you part of it.

  • He wrote:

    "I am following with disgust the violent and concentric attack against the church, the pope and all the faithful from the whole world. The use of stereotype, the transferring of the responsibility and personal fault to the collective one remind me of the most shameful aspects of anti-Semitism."


    The response was immediate. The head of Germany's Central Council of Jews called the statement repulsive and obscene.

    And Peter Isely, the head of an abuse victims group in the U.S. said: "They're experiencing a little discomfort, and they're going to compare themselves to being rounded up or lined up and sent in cattle cars to Auschwitz? You cannot be serious."

    In short order, the Vatican issued a statement, saying Father Cantalamessa's remarks were not the official position of the church. The pope faces claims that, as an archbishop in Germany, he covered up the actions of a sexually abusive priest during the 1970s. The Vatican has forcefully denied that and other accusations.

    And, on Wednesday, a top Vatican official, Cardinal William Levada, posted a lengthy defense online and attacked The New York Times, which has broken several of the recent stories.

    But another American theologian, Father Richard McBrien of Notre Dame, said the pope must answer the allegations.

    FATHER RICHARD MCBRIEN, University of Notre Dame: This controversy will not be put to rest until the pope himself gives the answer to the question, the famous question that Senator Howard Baker asked in the Watergate hearings many years ago: What did he know and when did he know it, and a third question, And what did he do about it?


    And, in Germany today, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, who heads that country's Roman Catholic bishops, complained of a wrongly intended desire to protect the church's reputation.

    For his part, the 82-year-old pontiff, who appeared at today's Good Friday observances, didn't address any issues relating to the sexual abuse allegations.

    Afghan President Hamid Karzai moved today to calm a dispute with Washington. Yesterday, he charged, Western nations engineered vast fraud in last year's Afghan election. Today, he spoke with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by phone and told her the speech had been misunderstood.

    Meantime, Karzai's main political rival, Abdullah Abdullah, charged the Afghan leader had tried to shift the focus from internal corruption.

    DR. ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, former Afghan presidential candidate: He thinks, by give that message, he has taken a populist stand, anti-foreigner. The people of Afghanistan may be — there might — may be widespread illiteracy, poverty, and many, many other illnesses. At the same time, to underestimate their awareness is a fatal mistake.


    Also today, three German soldiers were killed in a clash with Taliban fighters in the north. More than 4,000 German troops are serving in Afghanistan.

    In Pakistan, the attorney general resigned today. He said the government has blocked him from investigating President Asif Ali Zardari on charges of graft. And the Pakistani parliament began work on a constitutional change to strip the president of the power to fire an elected government.

    In northern China, rescuers detected the first signs of life from inside a flooded coal mine — 153 miners have been trapped there since Sunday. Today, state television showed footage of rescuers banging on pipes, hoping to reach the miners, and then celebrating when they heard tapping sounds.

    ZHANG BAOSHUN, communist party chief, Shanxi Province (through translator): We received some very exciting news. Right at the point we drilled through into the area where we sent water, milk and food into the mine, we knocked the pipe and we heard a noise back, which demonstrates that signs of life could exist from the more than 100 miners trapped in the mine.


    Family members of some miners say there are many more miners trapped than the Chinese government has acknowledged.

    Air passengers traveling to the U.S. will face revised security. The Department of Homeland Security said today people will be targeted for additional screening based on specific threat information. Currently, anyone from 14 mainly Muslim countries or traveling through those countries automatically faces extra checks. That policy took effect after the failed attempt to blow up an airliner over Detroit last Christmas.

    The FBI warned today about letters to more than 30 U.S. governors, demanding they resign or face being removed. The bureau said the letters by an anti-government group could provoke violence. The Web site of the Guardians of the Free Republics said they want to restore America by peaceful means.

    Actor John Forsythe died late Thursday of cancer at his home in Southern California. He was best known for two major television roles over his long career. For eight years in the 1980s, he starred in "Dynasty" as oil tycoon Blake Carrington. Before that, he was the unseen boss of "Charlie's Angels," a group of three female detectives.

    John Forsythe was 92 years old.

    Those are some of the day's main stories. I will be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you will find tonight on the "NewsHour"'s Web site — for now, back to Jim.