New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan was greeted with applause after finishing Palm Sunday Mass by defending Pope Benedict XVI against suggestions he aided coverups of reports of child abuse.
The standing-room-only crowd at St. Patrick's Cathedral applauded for 20 seconds after Dolan read a statement calling the pope the "leader in purification, reform and renewal that the church so very much needs."
Still, Dolan said reports of abuse of minors by some priests in Ireland and Germany and the retelling of the abuse of children by a priest in Wisconsin had intensified the somberness of Holy Week.
The leader of the nation's second-largest diocese urged his congregation to pray for the pope, saying he was suffering some of the same unjust accusations once faced by Jesus.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.