The Pope is facing allegations he was responsible for delaying Church action against a paedophile priest – the first time he has been accused so directly.
The allegations stem from a letter signed by Benedict XVI in 1985, when he was a senior Vatican official.
Associated Press said it had obtained the letter, signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, resisting the defrocking of offending US priest Stephen Kiesle.
The Vatican says he was exercising due caution before sacking the priest.
Cardinal Ratzinger – who was at the time the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – said the “good of the universal Church” needed to be considered in any defrocking, AP reported.
Vatican officials say the letter was part of a long correspondence and should not be taken out of context.
Vatican spokesman Rev Federico Lombardi said: “The press office doesn’t believe it is necessary to respond to every single document taken out of context regarding particular legal situations.”
The allegations come as the Vatican says the Pope is willing to meet more victims of clerical abuse, and as the Vatican prepares to publish a guide on the internet about how bishops should deal with accusations of sexual abuse.
The Catholic Church has been hit by a series of child abuse scandals, including in Ireland, the US, Germany and Norway, and has faced criticism for failing to deal adequately with the problem.
By the time you finish reading this, 15 children will have been abused; In the next five minutes, 30 more; Within the next hour, 360 more; And by tonight, close to 8,000+ children will have suffered from abuse, 5 of which will die. Child abuse has increased 134% since 1980 and is now considered a worldwide epidemic. The high jump in child abuse deaths and the shocking increase in statistics highlights the frightening lack of public knowledge.
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