Pope Benedict XVI has opened the church's solemn Holy Week amid increasing questions about his own handling of priest sex abuse cases. Benedict's procession entered St. Peter's Square today at the start of Palm Sunday Mass. The pontiff, in crimson and golden vestments, waved to the throngs of faithful waving palm fronds and olive branches.
This year, the most solemn week on the liturgical calendar has been stained by one of the worst church crises in decades. The Vatican defended Benedict yesterday, with a spokesman insisting that while the church had occasionally remained silent on abuse, the future pontiff "was the first one who—already as a cardinal—felt the need for new, harsher rules." Attacks on the pope go "beyond any limit of justice and loyalty," the spokesman said. (Read more Pope Benedict XVI stories.)