Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, pictured in summer 2017. | EWTN/Paul Badde.
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has apologised for mistakenly saying that he did not attend a disputed meeting in 1980 while serving as archbishop of Munich and Freising.
In a statement published in the German Catholic weekly Die Tagepost on Jan. 24, the 94-year-old retired pope said that the mistake was the result of an editing error, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.
Benedict XVI initially told investigators that he was not present at a meeting of archdiocesan officials on Jan. 15, 1980.
But in the statement, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict XVI’s private secretary, said that the pope emeritus “would now like to make it clear that, contrary to what was stated during the hearing, he took part in the ordinariate meeting on Jan. 15, 1980.”
“The statement to the contrary was therefore objectively incorrect,” he said.
“He would like to emphasize that this was not done out of bad faith, but was the result of an error in the editing of his statement. He will explain how this came about in the pending statement. He is very sorry for this mistake and asks for this mistake to be excused.”
A more than 1,000-page report on the handling of abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, issued on Jan. 20, accused the retired pope of mishandling four cases during his tenure as archbishop from 1977 to 1982.
Benedict XVI, who strongly denies cover-up allegations, sent 82 pages of observations to researchers compiling the report.
One of the four cases related to a priest named Father Peter Hullermann, who is accused of abusing at least 23 boys aged eight to 16 between 1973 and 1996.
The case was first highlighted by the media in 2010, when Benedict XVI was pope, and again earlier this month.
Attention has focused on an ordinariate meeting in 1980, in which the priest’s transfer from the Diocese of Essen to Munich archdiocese was discussed.
Gänswein noted in his statement to Die Tagespost that during the meeting it was agreed that the priest, who had admitted to sexually abusing children, should be provided with accommodation in Munich as he underwent therapy.
“Objectively correct, however, and documented by the files, is the statement that no decision was made in this meeting about a pastoral assignment of the priest in question,” he said.
“Rather, only the request to provide him with accommodation during his therapeutic treatment in Munich was granted.”
Hullermann was later permitted to serve without restrictions in a Munich parish. In 2010, former vicar general Msgr. Gerhard Gruber took “full responsibility” for the decision.
After leaving the Munich archdiocese in 1982, the future Benedict XVI served as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before his election as pope in 2005. He retired in 2013 and has since lived in relative seclusion at the Vatican.
The Munich report covered not only the period that the future Benedict XVI led the archdiocese, but also the tenures of Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, who succeeded him, and Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who has served as archbishop of Munich and Freising since 2007.
In addition to criticising the future pope’s handling of four cases, investigators said that Wetter had mishandled 21 cases and Marx two cases.
Marx, a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, said that he was “shocked and ashamed” at the report’s findings.
The Munich archdiocese is expected to hold a press conference on Jan. 27 to address the study’s conclusions “after a first reading and examination.”
Gänswein’s statement said that Benedict XVI was continuing to read the extensive report by the Munich law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl.
“At present, he is carefully reading the statements made there, which fill him with shame and pain about the suffering inflicted on the victims,” he said.
“Even though he is endeavouring to read the report quickly, he asks for your understanding that it will take some time for him to read it in its entirety due to his age and health, but also because of its large volume. There will be a statement on the report.”