Benedict also criticised Catholics “ashamed” of their faith and too willing to “lend a hand to secularism”. Ninety per cent of Portuguese define themselves as Catholic, but Portugal’s society is increasingly secular, with far fewer than a third saying they attend Mass regularly.
The Pope, on a four-day visit, was speaking after a Mass at the shrine at Fatima to mark the experience of three child shepherds in 1917 when the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to them. The Madonna confided three “secrets” foretelling the Second World War, the conversion of Russia to Christianity and the attempt on the life of John Paul II in 1981.
In a separate message addressed to Catholics in Germany, the Pope made an oblique reference to the sex abuse scandals. “Bad seeds exist right within the Church and among those that the Lord has specifically called to serve him,” he said.