Ex-Pope Benedict acknowledges ‘errors’ but no blame in handling abuse, asks forgiveness

  • Ex-pope issues personal letter following German abuse report
  • Lawyers respond, challenging the accuracy of the report
  • Benoît says it was “deeply hurtful” to be called a liar
  • Benedict, 94, says God’s final judgment is coming ‘very soon’

VATICAN CITY, Feb 8 (Reuters) – Former Pope Benedict XVI admitted on Tuesday that mistakes had occurred in handling sexual abuse cases when he was Archbishop of Munich and asked for forgiveness, his lawyers saying that he was not directly responsible.

Victims lamented a lost opportunity to heal from a scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church around the world.

The Vatican released a letter from Benedict and a three-page addendum following a report released last month into abuses in the archdiocese from 1945 to 2019, which included Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s alleged failure to take steps. measures in four cases while he was Archbishop of Munich between 1977 and 1982.

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“I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church. All the greater is my pain for the abuses and errors that have occurred in these various places during my tenure,” he wrote in the letter. , his first personal response to the report. .

Noting that he had asked forgiveness for the Church during his meetings with survivors of abuse, Benedict, 94, wrote:

“I have come to understand that we ourselves are drawn into this grave fault each time we neglect it or fail to confront it with the necessary decision and responsibility, as has too often happened. happened and continues to happen… once again, I can only express to all victims of sexual abuse my deep shame, my deep sadness and my sincere request for forgiveness.”

A separate analysis by four legal experts he commissioned, however, disputed the specific allegations against the former pope, saying investigators had mischaracterized the actions and ignored the facts.

SNAP, a victims’ group, said Benedict passed up a “cleansing” opportunity that could have helped with healing.

“Despite evidence from secular authorities…the former pope cannot do the simplest thing and offer full accountability and an apology,” SNAP said.

While his lawyers’ rebuttal was sharp, detailed and controversial, Benedict XVI’s one-and-a-half-page German letter was deeply personal and written in religious terms as he reflected on a long life that was coming to an end.

In one section he openly wondered if he, as all Catholics do in a prayer known as the Confiteor at Mass, should ask forgiveness for what they have done and what they haven’t. not done “by my fault, by my most serious fault”.

He wrote: “It is clear to me that the words ‘most serious’ do not apply every day and to every person in the same way. Yet every day they make me wonder if today too I should speak of a most serious fault. .”


Benedict does not answer his own question but says he is consoled that God forgives.

“Soon I will find myself before the final judge of my life,” he wrote.

Benedict XVI, who unexpectedly resigned in 2013, also thanked Pope Francis for “the trust, support and prayer…expressed to me personally.” He did not specify.

Shortly after the German report was published, Benedict XVI admitted that he had attended a meeting in 1980 on a sexual abuse case when he was Archbishop of Munich, saying he had mistakenly told German investigators that he wasn’t there.

At the time, Benedict XVI’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, said the omission was the result of an oversight in the editing of 82 pages of testimonies he sent to investigators and not of misconduct. faith.

In Monday’s letter, Benedict said, “To me it was deeply hurtful that this oversight was used to cast doubt on my veracity, and even to label me a liar.”

The Vatican press kit released on Monday included videos of Ganswein reading the pope’s letter in German and Italian.

The three-page addendum, titled “Analysis of the Facts by the Collaborators of Benedict XVI,” was written by three canon lawyers (of the Church) and a civil lawyer.

Last month’s Munich abuse report, which identified nearly 500 victims of abuse over almost 75 years, was compiled by a German law firm commissioned by the archdiocese.

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Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Nick Macfie

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