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Ex-Pope Benedict XVI admits false statement in abuse probe

January 24, 2022

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has admitted to providing false testimony during an investigation into sexual abuse in Germany's Catholic Church.

Pope Benedict XVI on visit to London in 2010
An independent probe found that the former pope botched at least four cases of abuse while archbishop of MunichImage: Colin Edwards/imago images

Former Pope Benedict XVI has apologized for providing false information during a probe into sexual abuse in his old Munich archdiocese, his secretary said in a statement on Monday that was posted to the Vatican News portal.

The statement, which was given to the German-language Catholic News Agency (KNA), said the false information was not given "with ill intent."

Instead, it was blamed on an editing "oversight" that occurred with Benedict's written testimony to the inquiry.

The former pope, 94, had told the inquiry he had not been present at a 1980 meeting discussing a case of a pedophile priest. He has now confirmed that he did attend the meeting, but insisted that no decision had been made there about reassigning the priest to pastoral duties.

"Rather, only the request to provide [the priest] with accommodation during his therapeutic treatment in Munich was granted," the statement said.

Benedict was "very sorry" for the mistake and hoped that it could be forgiven, said the statement, adding that the former pope would give an explanation for the error at a later date.

Failures to act

The current pope, Francis, pledged Friday to provide justice for the victims of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic Church. His statement came a day after a report revealed that his predecessor, Benedict — who resigned from the papacy in a virtually unprecedented move in 2013 — had failed to act in four cases of abuse prior to becoming pope.

Thursday's report looked into sexual abuse cases by members of the clergy in the Munich archdiocese between 1945 and 2019. Benedict — known as Joseph Ratzinger at the time — was archbishop there between 1977 and 1985.

The law firm that prepared the report, Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW), had obtained minutes confirming his presence at the meeting. Lawyers from the firm had therefore expressed surprise that the former pope had denied being there.

tj,rs/rc (dpa, KNA, AFP)