The Catholic Church is facing some of the harshest criticism in years following allegations of sex abuse and supposed cover-ups to protect priests, and while the issues have captured global attention, many Catholics here in Edmonton were unwilling to address the matter.

CTV News tried to speak to parishioners as they were leaving St. Joseph's Basilica this Palm Sunday, but many walked away stating they had no comment on the allegations of abuse in the church.

CTV's Deborah Shiry approached nine people outside the downtown church and only got a response from one woman.

"I think it's upsetting," said parishioner Shastina Tessier. "There's a lot of things that are upsetting that I see, but God is love and forgiveness and that's the best we can do."

At St. Michael's Church in Calgary some echoed Tessier comments, saying the scandal doesn't affect their faith.

"I think we're human, priests are human," said Yolande Garay. "I think that love covers a multitude of sins, so we need to be generous because it could be us, we're tempted just like everybody else."

CTV News did call the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton for comment, but their office was closed for the weekend.

The Allegations

Pope Benedict XVI opened Holy Week on Sunday amid one of the most serious crises facing the church in decades, with questions about his handling of cases of pedophile priests and the Vatican acknowledging its "moral credibility" was on the line.

Benedict made no direct mention of the scandal in his Palm Sunday homily. But one of the prayers, recited in Portuguese during Mass, was "for the young and for those charged with educating them and protecting them."

Jesus Christ, Benedict said in his homily, guides the faithful "toward the courage that doesn't let us be intimidated by the chatting of dominant opinions, towards patience that supports others."

Palm Sunday commemorates Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and is the start of the church's Holy Week, which includes the Good Friday re-enactment of Christ's crucifixion and death and his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

This year, the most solemn week on the Catholic Church's liturgical calendar has been stained by a clerical abuse scandal that has spread across Europe to the pope's native Germany.

In Austria, where several cases have come out in recent weeks, the archbishop of Vienna announced the creation of a church-funded but clergy-free and independent commission to look into Austrian abuse claims.

It will be run by a woman, the former governor of Styria province, and is not meant to take the place of a possible state-run investigative commission, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn told public broadcaster ORF on Sunday.

The Vatican has been on the defensive amid mounting questions about the pope's handling of sex abuse cases both when he was archbishop of Munich and when he headed the Vatican's doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was Munich archbishop when a priest was allowed to resume pastoral work with children even while receiving therapy for pedophilia. He was subsequently convicted of abusing minors. In addition, a case has come to light in which Ratzinger's deputy at the Congregation told Wisconsin bishops to quash a church trial for a priest alleged to have abused up to 200 deaf boys.

The Vatican insists Ratzinger was unaware of the Munich priest's move to the pastoral job and has defended its handling of the Wisconsin case.

With files from Deborah Shiry and The Associated Press