Sao Paulo

Cardinal says sex-abuse scandals top priority for new pope

'But no one can tell Mahony to skip conclave'

Cardinal says sex-abuse scandals top priority for new pope

Sao Paulo, February 21 - A top cardinal said Thursday that the next pope's primary objective will be handling priest sex-abuse scandals and other "challenges". In an interview with ANSA, Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo of Brazil said Benedict XVI's successor "will not be chosen with age or origin in mind, but for his ability to deal with the new challenges facing the Roman Catholic Church, among which are pedophilia and covering it up". Agnelo, 79, is the primate emeritus of Brazil, the country with the largest number of Catholics in the world. He was considered 'papabile', or a papal contender, in 2005 when Benedict XVI was chosen to succeed John Paul II. "There are great expectations surrounding the next conclave, considering this historic moment we're living in with its problems and challenges," he added. "The biggest challenge for the Church, for the cardinals and the bishops will be to bring an end to the pedophilia coverup scandals, to keep those guilty out of the clerical state and to foster a new generation of priests". The Church sex-abuse scandals have been heating up as two top American cardinals have been called by prosecutors for questioning about sex-abuse cases in the weeks leading up to the conclave to elect a new pope. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, was questioned Wednesday about sex-abuse allegations against priests at the Milwaukee Archdiocese, which he led from 2002 until 2009. Cardinal Roger Mahony, the retired archbishop of Los Angeles, must answer questions under oath Saturday about a visiting Mexican priest who in 1987 is believed to have molested 26 children. His case in particular has prompted calls on social media and from advocacy groups for him to skip the conclave, which is expected to commence mid-March. "Pedophilia and homosexuality are grave sins, but no one can stop someone from coming to the conclave," said Agnelo. "Technically, according to canon law, it is not possible to prevent any cardinal from voting. It is not allowed, for any reason. All of us can vote and be voted for". (photo: Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo, second left, with Pope Benedict XVI)

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