Vatican City: The Pope is publicly applauding priests for being a "gift" to both the church and the world, despite the clergy abuse scandals that have saddened or angered many Catholics.
Pope Benedict XVI says priests — from saints and martyrs to the unheralded pastors toiling in tiny parishes — have been key to bringing what he called authentic spiritual and social renewal throughout history.
The Pope, who was addressing pilgrims Sunday in St. Peter`s Square, made no mention of the scandals tainting the church. He said God`s love gives priests the ability to forgive their enemies.
On Friday, Benedict begged forgiveness from victims of priests who sexually abused them and made a symbolic pledge to do everything possible to protect children.