Retired Pope Asks for Forgiveness

In connection with his handling of abuse cases, though Benedict admits no wrongdoing
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 8, 2022 1:26 PM CST
Benedict Seeks Forgiveness Over Handling of Abuse Cases
A 2015 photo of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Retired Pope Benedict XVI asked forgiveness Tuesday for any "grievous faults" in his handling of clergy sex abuse cases, but admitted to no personal or specific wrongdoing. His comments came after an independent report criticized his actions in four cases while he was archbishop of Munich, Germany, per the AP. "I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church," said the retired pope. "All the greater is my pain for the abuses and the errors that occurred in those different places during the time of my mandate."

Benedict, 94, was responding to a Jan. 20 report from a German law firm that had been commissioned by the German Catholic Church to look into how cases of sexual abuse were handled in the Munich archdiocese between 1945 and 2019. Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, headed the archdiocese from 1977 to 1982. The report faulted Benedict’s handling of four cases, accusing him of misconduct for having failed to restrict the ministry of the priests in the cases even after they had been convicted criminally. The report also faulted his predecessors and successors, estimating that there had been at least 497 abuse victims and at least 235 suspected perpetrators.

The Vatican on Tuesday released a letter Benedict wrote to respond to the allegations, alongside a more technical reply from his team of lawyers who had provided an initial 82-page response to the law firm about his nearly five-year tenure in Munich. The conclusion of Benedict’s lawyers was resolute: "As an archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger was not involved in any cover-up of acts of abuse," they wrote. Benedict’s response was far more nuanced and spiritual. In the letter, Benedict issued what he called a "confession," recalling that daily Mass begins with believers confessing their sins and asking forgiveness for their faults and even their "grievous faults."

(Read more Pope Benedict XVI stories.)

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