The Pope's personal preacher, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, has been criticised for comparing objections to the Vatican's handling of child sex abuse scandals to what he called the most shameful aspects of anti-Semitism.

Victims' groups and Jewish organisations have said it was inappropriate to liken the discomfort of the Catholic Church to hundreds of years of violence and abuse.

Fr Cantalamessa, the preacher to the Papal Household at the Vatican, made the comments during a ceremony at St Peter's Basilica as Pope Benedict XVI looked on.

Speaking during a Good Friday observance, he said he was quoting from a letter from a Jewish friend.

'The stereotyping, the transfer of personal responsibility and blame to a collective blame reminds me of the most shameful aspects of anti-Semitism,' said Fr Cantalamessa, quoting the letter.

'I have followed with disgust the violent attack. . . against the Church (and) the Pope,' said the letter, read out by Fr Cantalamessa, who by tradition is the only person allowed to preach to the Pope.

Pope Benedict, 82, made no mention of the child abuse controversy during a traditional procession later yesterday at Rome's Colosseum re-enacting Jesus Christ's final hours and crucifixion.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the comments were from 'a letter read by the preacher and not the official position of the Vatican'.

But the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the largest and most active of such groups in the US, denounced the remarks.

Jewish organisations demanded an apology from the Pope himself.

David Goldberg of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London said he was astounded that criticism of the Pope should be compared to the treatment of Jews.

The child abuse scandal has engulfed much of Europe and the US, prompting harsh criticism of the Vatican's handling of the scourge.