Ex-Pope breaks silence to deny sex abuse cover-up
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Seven months after leaving the papacy, emeritus Pope Benedict XVI has unexpectedly broken his self-imposed silence to deny he covered up for sexually abusive priests.
Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI has broken his self-imposed silence to deny he covered up the sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests in a letter written to one of Italy’s best-known atheists.
“I never tried to cover these things up,” Benedict wrote to Piergiorgio Odifreddi, a mathematician and author of “Dear Pope, I am Writing to You”, a book that challenges the church on many issues including paedophilia.
“That the power of evil penetrated so far into the interior world of the faith is a suffering that we must bear, but at the same time, we must do everything to prevent it from repeating,” Benedict’s said in the unexpected letter, excerpts of which were published Tuesday in Italian daily La Repubblica.
Before he was elected pope in 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the office responsible for handling abuse cases.
He was prefect when the scandal first exploded in Boston in 2002 and was the leader of the Catholic Church when it erupted on a global scale in 2010.
First time ex-pope has spoken out
Tuesday’s letter is thought to be the first time Ratzinger has defended himself publicly in the first person. As prefect he pushed through reforms in 2003 and 2004 that enabled the swift removal of abusive priests, but the move came decades after his office began receiving a steady stream of documentation about the scale of sex-abuse, victims have said.
The letter published in La Repubblica is remarkable because it was published just two weeks after Pope Francis penned a similar letter to La Repubblica’s atheist editor.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the back-to-back appearance of the letters was pure coincidence, but there is wide speculation that the two popes have been collaborating on texts, in a completely unprecedented situation at the Vatican.
Benedict stepped down on February 28, 2013, setting the stage for the election of the strikingly different Pope Francis two weeks later. At the time Benedict said he would spend his final years “hidden from the world” reading and praying.
(FRANCE24 with wires)
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