WARSAW?The leader of Poland's Roman Catholics rallied Monday to defend Pope Benedict XVI against claims he allowed a cover-up of sexual abuse of children by clergymen in the United States and Europe.
The 82-year-old pope has come under intense pressure over press allegations that, as archbishop of Munich and later as the chief Vatican enforcer of Catholic doctrine and morals, he failed to act against predator priests.
"Faced with an unprecedented media attack against Benedict XVI in connection with the terrible sex abuse in Ireland, I wish to voice my spiritual support and cordial communion with the pope," wrote Polish primate Henryk Muszynski.
The Polish Catholic leader charged in a statement on his website that the "insinuations" concerning the pope's alleged responsibility were a "direct assault on his dignity and an attempt to discredit the Catholic Church."
On Thursday, Benedict came under scrutiny in a New York Times report on an US priest who was never disciplined despite accusations he abused up to 200 deaf boys between 1950 et 1974.
The US daily followed up Friday with allegations Benedict was aware of the transfer of a known German abuser when he headed the Munich archdiocese.
National churches have lined up in defence of the pope, who has spoken out against the "heinous crime" of child sex abuse by priests.
Muszynski said he was "astonished that an incident more than 30 years old, concerning a now-deceased priest and which was only submitted in 1996 to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, should be used against the pope."
As head of the Congregation, Benedict?then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger?had initiated a decree issued by Pope John Paul II in 2001 ordering bishops to report abuse cases to the Vatican and remove abusers from contact with youth.
The Vatican says it received 3,000 reports between 2001 and 2010 of sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy committed over the past 50 years.
The Church has vowed Benedict will not be weakened by the scandal, despite suggestions by some commentators that he could be forced to resign.