Former Pope Benedict XVI denies he tried to cover up sexual abuse of children

Tuesday 24 September 2013 23.42
Benedict's comments came in an 11-page letter to Italian author
Benedict's comments came in an 11-page letter to Italian author

Former Pope Benedict XVI has denied he tried to cover up sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, in his first direct published comments since he stepped down.

The comments came in an 11-page letter to Italian author and mathematician Piergiorgio Odifreddi,

Mr Odifreddi had written a book about the problems facing the church before Benedict resigned in February.

"As far as you mentioning the moral abuse of minors by priests, I can only, as you know, acknowledge it with profound consternation. But I never tried to cover up these things," said Benedict, who now has the title Pope Emeritus.

Excerpts of the letter were published in the Rome newspaper La Repubblica today with the former pope's permission.

It was believed to be the first time Benedict has responded to the sexual abuse accusations in the first person, although the Vatican has always said he did much to put an end to sexual abuse of minors by priests and never tried to cover it up.

It was also the first time since Benedict resigned on 28 February that anything precise that he has written or said was published.

Some people who have visited him in the Vatican house where he is living out retirement have indirectly reported to outsiders some of his comments to them.

Victims groups have accused Benedict of not doing enough to stop the abuse of children by priests while he was pope and before, when he was head of the Vatican's doctrinal office.

They say there is much still to be discovered about how the Church behaved in the past and want more bishops who were aware of abuse to be held responsible.

The Catholic Church in many countries has set up new guidelines to deal with cases of past abuse, prevent new cases, report abuse to police, and stop potential abusers from entering the priesthood in the first place.