Former Pope Benedict XVI was involved in the cover-up of child abuse cases when he was the archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982, a new report by an independent commission has found.
Pope Benedict, then called Josef Ratzinger, was accused of misconduct in at least four child abuse cases by the commission, which was formed by German law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl.
After a nearly two-year investigation into the German Catholic Church’s handling of sexual abuse claims, the commission announced its findings on Thursday at a news conference in Munich.
The former pope had responded to questions by the commission, and denied any wrongdoing.
Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Benedict’s private secretary, said via the Vatican’s official media that the retired pontiff did not know the contents of the report until it was published, and would examine it in the coming days “with the necessary attention.”
“The Pope Emeritus, as he has already repeated several times during the years of his pontificate, expresses his shock and shame at the abuse of minors committed by clerics, and expresses his personal closeness and prayer for all the victims, some of whom he has met on the occasion of his apostolic journeys,” Ganswein added.
Benedict, who is 95 and in frail health, resigned in 2013 in a shock move.
He was the first pope to quit in nearly 600 years, saying he no longer had the energy to lead the Catholic Church. Since then, he has been living in a monastery within Vatican grounds, mostly shut away from the public eye.
A previous report commissioned by the German Catholic Church had revealed that around 1,670 clerics had committed a sexual attack against 3,677 minors, mainly boys, from 1946 through 2014.
In Rome, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the Holy See would “give due attention” to the German report, “of which at the moment it does not know the content.”
Saying it would be studied in detail “in the coming days,” Bruni said the Holy See reiterated its “sense of shame and remorse,” felt close to all victims and “confirms the path taken” to ensure children are protected.
The Catholic Church has been rocked by decades by scandals concerning the abuse of minors by priests and the systematic cover-up of these crimes. Pope Francis, like his predecessor Benedict XVI, has promised zero tolerance on the issue.
* Alvise Armellini contributed to this report from Rome.
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