The Vatican has dismissed suggestions that Pope Benedict had tried to cover up clerical child abuse in his former diocese in southern Germany.

A spokesman for the Vatican said it was clear that any attempt to involve the Pope in the question of abuse had failed.

Yesterday, the Pope's former diocese in Bavaria said he was involved in a decision in 1980 to move a priest there who was suspected of child abuse.

The priest was moved to the diocese of Munich and Freising in January 1980 at the request of the diocese of Essen, and still works in the southern district, the Munich diocese said.

‘The then archbishop took part in this decision,’ said the Munich diocese, of which the pontiff, then Joseph Ratzinger, was archbishop from 1977 to 1981.

The priest was supposed to undergo therapy at a rectory.

‘On the basis of the archive records, the ordinariate's working group has to assume that it was known then that this therapy should probably be carried out due to sexual relations with children,’ the diocese said in a statement.

However, rather than sending the priest for therapy as had been agreed, the diocese's then general vicar, Gerhard Gruber, assigned him to a Munich parish without restrictions.

‘Gruber takes full responsibility for the wrong decisions,' the diocese said.

There was no indication that the then Archbishop Ratzinger was involved in the decision not to transfer the priest into therapy.

No complaints were made against the priest between early 1980 and August 1982.

After later accusations of sexual abuse, he was given an 18-month suspended prison sentence in 1986 and handed a fine.

No accusations have been made against him since.

The priest later worked as a curate in a retirement home, then as a parish administrator.

He has worked in a role in tourism for the Church since October 2008, and has been banned from working with children, the diocese said.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi referred to Munich diocese statement, saying: ‘It explains the facts, for which the general vicar of the diocese at the time, Gerhard Gruber, assumes full responsibility.’

The head of Germany's Catholic Church apologised to victims of child abuse by priests yesterday and met Pope Benedict who encouraged him to press ahead with tough new measures.