'What's wrong with Christians?' ponders Pope after abuse storm

The Catholic Church has to find what is wrong with its message and with Christian life in general following the widespread sexual abuse of children by priests, the pope said yesterday.

He said the church must better train priests so that abusers are not ordained and must work out how to help victims of paedophile priests heal.

The Pope made the remarks to Vatican cardinals and bishops gathered for his traditional Christmas speech, an eagerly anticipated address that he uses to press key issues he wants the church hierarchy to reflect on.

The Pope said revelations of abuse in 2010 reached "an unimaginable dimension" that required the church to accept the "humiliation" as a call for renewal.

"We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustices that occurred," he said. "We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our message, in our entire way of configuring the Christian being, that allowed such a thing to occur. We must find a new determination in faith and goodness."

The Pope has already admitted that the scandal was the result of sin within the church and it must repent and make amends with victims.

But his comments suggested that there might be some intrinsic problem with the way Christianity and its message is understood in the modern world that allowed the abuse to fester unchecked.

The sex abuse scandal, which first exploded in the US in 2002, erupted on a global scale this year with revelations of thousands of victims in Europe and beyond, of bishops who covered up for paedophile priests and of Vatican officials who turned a blind eye to the crimes.