BERLIN: Former Pope Benedict XVI failed to take action against clerics in four cases of alleged sexual abuse in his archdiocese when he was Archbishop of Munich, a report found on Thursday (Jan 20).
Munich law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW) was asked to investigate allegations of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising between 1945 and 2019.
The report, commissioned by the archdiocese, said there were at least 497 victims of abuse, mainly young males. Many other cases had probably not been reported, said the lawyers.
A spokesman for the former pope did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Benedict, now aged 94, has been living in the Vatican since resigning as pontiff in 2013.
In a statement that did not mention the former pope, the Vatican said it would evaluate the full report and examine its details.
"In reiterating a sense of shame and remorse for the abuse of minors by clergy, the Holy See assures its closeness to all victims and confirms the path it has taken to protect the little ones and guarantee them a safe environment," spokesman Matteo Bruni said.
The WSW lawyers were tasked with finding out who knew what happened in the archdiocese and any action they took. Attention has focused on Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, who was Archbishop of Munich and Freising between 1977 and 1982.
Presenting the report for WSW, lawyer Martin Pusch said Ratzinger had done nothing against the abuse in four cases.
"In a total of four cases, we reached a consensus that there was a failure to act," said Pusch, adding the former pope had "strictly" denied responsibility in response to the accusations.