In a letter published by the Vatican this Tuesday (8), Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI asked for forgiveness for cases of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, but reiterated that he never covered up facts of this nature in the period in which he was archbishop of Munich and Freising, between 1977 and 1982.
An investigative report released in January indicated that the pope emeritus had been informed about priests who abused children in the archdiocese at that time, but did not remove the suspects.
Regarding the report, prepared by the law firm Westphal Spilker Wastl, Benedict XVI pointed out that a group of advisers helped him prepare a response of 15 pages, which required the reading and analysis of almost 8,000 pages of acts in digital format. al.
“Later, these collaborators helped me to study and analyze the expertise of almost 2 thousand pages. The result will be published later in the appendix to my letter”, wrote the pope emeritus.
Benedict XVI reaffirmed an argument that his personal secretary, Georg Gänswein, had already presented in of January, when the pope emeritus reversed a written statement to German investigators and admitted that he had attended a meeting in January 1982 in Munich to discuss the situation of a priest then suspected of pedophilia who was later convicted of this crime in 1980. On the occasion, the secretary of Benedict XVI highlighted that there had been “a carelessness in the editing of his declaration”.
“This mistake, which unfortunately occurred, was unintentional and I hope it is excusable,” the pope emeritus wrote in the letter released on Tuesday. “It touched me deeply that the distraction had been used to question my veracity and even to make me appear as a liar. Even more, however, I was moved by the varied expressions of trust, the cordial testimonies, and the warm letters of encouragement I received from so many people. I am particularly grateful for the trust, support and prayer that Pope Francis has expressed to me personally.”
Benedict XVI reported that he participated in meetings with victims and “once again I can only express to all victims of sexual abuse my deep shame, my great pain and my sincere request for forgiveness”.
“I had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church. All the greater is my pain for the abuses and mistakes that took place during the time of my mandate in the respective places. Every case of sexual abuse is terrible and irreparable. To the victims of sexual abuse, my deep compassion goes and I regret each of the cases”, he highlighted.
In an analysis of the Munich report, Benedict XVI’s advisers reiterated the editing error argument and argued that the pope emeritus had no knowledge of abuses committed by priests.
About the meeting of 1980, they argued that the then archbishop, in addition to being unaware of the abuses committed by the priest in question, also did not know that he would be admitted to pastoral activities in the archdiocese of Munich – the only information he received is that the priest would be accommodated in Munich to undergo therapy, the reason for which was not discussed at the meeting, nor the return of the aggressor to pastoral work.