Former pope Benedict XVI appealed for time to review a report that alleged he knowingly failed to take action to stop four priests accused of child sex abuse in Munich in the 1980s.
The former pontiff’s private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, said the pope emeritus “is carefully reading the statements … which fill him with shame and pain about the suffering inflicted on the victims.”
“Even if he tries to read the report quickly, he asks for understanding that the complete review will take some time due to his age and health, but also due to the large volume of the report,” said Archbishop Gänswein in a statement sent to LiCAS.news.
He said the former pope will later issue a statement on the report.
“However, he would like to make it clear now that, contrary to what was stated at the hearing, he did attend the Ordinariate meeting on January 15, 1980.
Archbishop Gänswein said earlier reports that quoted the pope as saying he was not in the meeting “was therefore objectively incorrect.”
“He would like to emphasize that this was not done out of bad faith, but was the result of an oversight in the editing of his statement,” said the archbishop.
“He will explain how this happened in the statement that is still to be issued. He is very sorry for this mistake and asks to be excused,” he added.
A more than 1,000-page report on the handling of abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, issued on January 20, accused the retired pope of mishandling four cases during his tenure as archbishop from 1977 to 1982.
Benedict XVI, who strongly denies cover-up allegations, sent 82 pages of observations to researchers compiling the report.
One of the four cases related to a priest named Father Peter Hullermann, who is accused of abusing at least 23 boys aged eight to 16 between 1973 and 1996.
The case was first highlighted by the media in 2010, when Benedict XVI was pope, and again earlier this month.
Attention has focused on an ordinariate meeting in 1980, in which the priest’s transfer from the Diocese of Essen to Munich archdiocese was discussed.
Archbishop Gänswein noted in his statement that during the meeting it was agreed that the priest, who had admitted to sexually abusing children, should be provided with accommodation in Munich as he underwent therapy.
“Objectively correct, however, and documented by the files, is the statement that no decision was made in this meeting about a pastoral assignment of the priest in question,” read the archbishop’s statement.
“Rather, only the request to provide him with accommodation during his therapeutic treatment in Munich was granted,” it added.
Hullermann was later permitted to serve without restrictions in a Munich parish. In 2010, former vicar general Msgr. Gerhard Gruber took “full responsibility” for the decision.
After leaving the Munich archdiocese in 1982, the future Benedict XVI served as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before his election as pope in 2005.
He retired in 2013 and has since lived in relative seclusion at the Vatican.
The Munich report covered not only the period that the future Benedict XVI led the archdiocese, but also the tenures of Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, who succeeded him, and Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who has served as archbishop of Munich and Freising since 2007. – with a report from the Catholic News Agency