Vatican denies pope failed to stop paedophile

The Vatican on Friday dismissed a fresh allegation by The New York Times that Pope Benedict XVI failed to bar the transfer of a known paedophile priest while he was the archbishop of Munich.

Vatican denies pope failed to stop paedophile
Photo: DPA

“The then archbishop had no knowledge of the decision to reassign (Reverend Peter Hullerman) to pastoral activities in a parish,” the Vatican said in a statement, adding that it “rejects any other version of events as mere speculation.”

Hullerman was suspended from his duties in the northern German town of Essen in late 1979 over allegations that he abused an 11-year-old boy. Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, who is now the pope, led a meeting approving Hullerman’s transfer to Munich the following January despite a memo warning that the priest was a potential “danger,” the Times reported on Friday.

Six years later, in 1986, Hullerman was found guilty of molesting boys in another Bavarian parish.

“The article in The New York Times contains no new information beyond that which the archdiocese has already communicated concerning the then archbishop’s knowledge of the situation of Father H.,” the Vatican said.

The Munich archdiocese issued a statement on March 12 confirming that Benedict “took part” in the decision to transfer Hullerman, while former vicar-general Gerhard Gruber took “all responsibility” for the move.

“The repeated employment of H. in priestly spiritual duties was a bad mistake. I assume all responsibility,” Gruber said in the statement.

New allegations of child sex abuse against Hullerman emerged this week dating both from his time in Essen and from 1998 in a different southern town.

In 1980, Ratzinger “was in a position to refer the priest for prosecution, or at least to stop him from coming into contact with children,” the Times wrote. Despite the warning signs “Father Hullerman went from disgrace and suspension from his duties in Essen to working without restrictions as a priest in Munich,” it added.

The case comes on the heels of another New York Times accusation on Thursday according to which Ratzinger failed to act over an American priest accused of molesting up to 200 deaf children between 1950 and 1974.

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Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.