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Benedict acknowledges he was at meeting where pedophile priest was discussed

Former Pope Benedict XVI with arms outstretched
Pope Benedict XVI acknowledges cheers from the faithful in St. Peter’s Square in 2007.
(Plinio Lepri / Associated Press)

Retired Pope Benedict XVI has acknowledged that he did attend a 1980 meeting at which the transfer of a pedophile priest to his then-diocese was discussed, saying an editorial error was responsible for his previous assertion that he wasn’t there.

Authors of a report on sexual abuse between 1945 and 2019 in the Munich archdiocese, which Benedict — then German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — led from 1977 to 1982, on Thursday faulted his handling of four cases during his time as archbishop and said his claim that he wasn’t at the meeting lacked credibility.

Benedict, who provided lengthy written testimony, denies any wrongdoing on his part.

One case involved a priest’s transfer to Munich to undergo therapy, which was approved under Ratzinger in 1980.

The priest was allowed to resume pastoral work, a decision that the church has said was made by a lower-ranking official without consulting the archbishop. In 1986, the priest received a suspended sentence for molesting a boy.

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In a statement Monday to Germany’s KNA Catholic news agency, Benedict’s longtime secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, said the retired pope wanted to clarify that he was in fact at the January 1980 meeting of local church officials in which the priest’s transfer to Munich was discussed. He said Benedict apologized for the error.

At scores of churches across the country, Germany’s Catholic progressives plan to defy the Vatican’s prohibition on blessing same-sex unions.

“He would like to stress that this did not happen out of any bad intent, but was the consequence of a mistake in the editorial processing of his statement,” Gaenswein said.

Gaenswein stressed, however, that no decision on the priest’s resumption of pastoral work was made at the meeting and that it only approved his being put up in Munich during his therapy.

Gaenswein said Benedict was still reading the report carefully and would need some time to finish. He added that there would be a statement from the former pope on the report and that it would spell out how the erroneous assertion about the meeting happened.

The statement to KNA was reported by the Vatican’s in-house Vatican News portal.


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