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Avellon Williams 

VATICAN- In an open letter to the church, Pope Benedict XVI asked for forgiveness on Tuesday for clerical child sex abuse committed under his watch. However, aides dismissed allegations that he covered the incident up while he was archbishop of Munich.

In a letter released last month in response to a German inquiry into his handling of pedophile priests in the 1980s, the 94-year-old said, “I can only express my profound shame, my deep sorrow, and my heartfelt request for forgiveness.”


“I have great responsibilities in the Catholic Church. The abuses and errors that occurred in those different places during my mandate have caused me deep pain.”

In January, it was revealed that Pope Benedict XVI, who stepped down in 2013, was found guilty of knowingly failing to stop four priests accused of child sex abuse in the 1980s while he was archbishop of Munich.

Benedict requested that a team of aides help him respond to the findings of the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW), which was commissioned by the archdiocese of Munich and Freising to examine abuse cases between 1945 and 2019.

According to the aides, Cardinal Ratzinger was not involved in any cover-up of abuse as an archbishop, as was indicated in a Vatican statement published alongside his letter Tuesday.

The former pope whose birth name is Joseph Ratzinger was the archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982.

Peter Hullerman /Courtesy/

It is alleged that one famous pedophile priest named Peter Hullermann was transferred to Munich from Essen in western Germany where he had been accused of sexually abusing an 11-year-old boy.

Benedict’s team has already admitted to giving incorrect information to the report authors regarding Benedict’s attendance at a meeting involving Hullermann in 1980.

On Tuesday, they clarified that no decision was made at the meeting to reassign the priest to pastoral duties, and they denied any discussion about the abuse.

“In none of the cases analyzed by the expert report was Joseph Ratzinger aware of sexual abuse committed by priests or suspected of sexual abuse committed by priests. The expert report does not provide evidence to the contrary,” the statement said.


Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI /Courtesy/

“It has been deeply hurtful,” he said in his letter, that the “oversight” of his attendance at the 1980 meeting “was used to cast doubt on my truthfulness, and even to label me as a liar.”

In response to Pope Francis’ personal words of confidence, support, and prayer, Benedict said he was “especially grateful for the support and guidance” of the pope.

Last month, the Vatican defended the former pope, saying he had “fought” sexual abuse, even though Pope Francis has publicly remained silent.

His role as head of the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation, formerly known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition, gave him ultimate responsibility for investigating abuse cases before his election as pope.

He described his declining health in the letter dated February 6, saying that “quite soon, I shall stand before the final judge of my life.”.

“The end of his long life can certainly cause fear and trembling in me,” he admitted, but despite this, he remained “of good cheer” at what was to become his final days.

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Avellon Williams