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Ex-Pope Benedict XVI confesses to attending 1980 Munich meeting about abusive priest

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
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Benedict XVI is pictured in St. Peter's Basilica in December 2015.
Benedict XVI is pictured in St. Peter's Basilica in December 2015.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File

The former Pope Benedict XVI had acknowledged that he did attend a meeting to discuss a suspected abusive priest when he was in charge of the Munich archdiocese.

In an earlier statement given during the probe into the case, Benedict failed to say he participated in a January 1980 meeting on whether the suspected paedophile should be transferred.

But on Monday, the retired Pope said his previous written comments issued to the investigators lacked this information due to an editorial "mistake".

A report on sexual abuse in the Munich archdiocese between 1945 and 2019 found that Benedict had mishandled four cases of alleged sexual abuse.

Benedict, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, held the position of Munich archbishop from 1977 to 1982.

The 94-year-old — who resigned from his post in 2013 due to health reasons — provided lengthy written testimony to the investigators, denying any wrongdoing on his part.

The report's authors earlier dismissed Benedict's remarks that he had not attended the 1980 meeting, saying they lacked credibility.

In a statement to Germany’s Catholic news agency KNA on Monday, Benedict’s longtime secretary archbishop Georg Gänswein said the retired pope wanted to clarify that he was in fact at the meeting of local church officials in which the priest’s transfer to Munich was discussed.

“He would like to stress that this did not happen out of any bad faith, but due to a mistake in the editorial processing of his statement,” Gänswein explained.

"[Benedict] is very sorry for this mistake and asks to be forgiven," he added.

But Benedict's aide also stated that no decision on the priest resuming pastoral work was made at the 1980 meeting.

Instead, local church officials only approved the priest being put up in Munich "during his therapeutic treatment", said.

In 1986, the priest in question received a suspended prison sentence for abusing a boy.

Gänswein added that the former Pope is still reading carefully through the report before making any further statements.

The Holy See has said it will also study the report in detail, reiterating its "sense of shame and remorse" for the violence and abuse committed. Pope Francis pledged justice for the abuse victims after the report became public.