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CRIME

German former pope Benedict admits giving ‘incorrect’ info to abuse inquiry

Ex-pope Benedict XVI on Monday admitted providing incorrect information to a German inquiry about his presence at a 1980 meeting discussing a paedophile priest, blaming an editing "oversight".

Former Pope Benedict in Munich in 2020.
Former Pope Benedict in Munich in 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Pool | Sven Hoppe

“He is very sorry for this mistake and asks to be excused,” Benedict’s personal secretary Georg Ganswein said in a statement cited by the KNA news agency and republished by Vatican News.

But the statement insisted no decision was made at the meeting about reassigning the priest to pastoral duties.

An independent report last week found that Benedict XVI, who stood down in 2013, knowingly failed to stop four priests accused of child sex abuse in the 1980s.

The report by law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl (WSW) was commissioned by the archdiocese of Munich and Freising to examine how abuse cases were dealt with between 1945 and 2019.

Ex-pope Benedict – whose civilian name is Joseph Ratzinger – was the archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982.

In one case, a now notorious paedophile priest named Peter Hullermann was transferred to Munich from Essen in western Germany where he had been accused of abusing an 11-year-old boy.

Hullermann was reassigned to pastoral duties despite his history and continued to reoffend for many years.

READ ALSO: Probe finds ex-pope Benedict failed to act in German abuse cases

The lawyers said that “to our surprise”, Benedict had denied attending the meeting in 1980 at which the decision was made to admit Hullermann to the diocese, despite being quoted directly in the minutes of the meeting.

The statement from the emeritus pope said: “He would like to make it clear now that, contrary to what was stated at the hearing, he did attend the Ordinariate meeting on January 15, 1980.

“The statement to the contrary was therefore objectively incorrect,” it added, while insisting this was “not done out of bad faith, but was the result of an oversight in the editing of his statement”.

“Objectively correct, however, remains the statement, documented by the files, that in his meeting no decision was made about a pastoral assignment of the priest in question,” it said.

“Rather, only the request to provide him with accommodation during his therapeutic treatment in Munich was granted.”

The statement said further explanations would follow but the 94-year-old pope, who is said to be in shaky health, is still reading the inquiry report.

“At present, he is carefully reading the statements set down there, which fill him with shame and pain about the suffering inflicted on the victims,” it said.

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CRIME

One injured in school shooting in Bremerhaven

One person was injured on Thursday when shots were fired in a school in the northern German city of Bremerhaven, police said, adding that they had arrested the suspected gunman.

One injured in school shooting in Bremerhaven

The shooting happened at the Lloyd Gymnasium school in the centre of Bremerhaven, a city on Germany’s North Sea coast, on Thursday morning. 

“The armed person has been arrested and is in police custody,” police said in a statement. The injured person was not a pupil, police said, adding that the person been taken to hospital.

“Students are in their classrooms with their teachers. The police have the situation on the ground under control,” the statement added.

Bremerhaven police tweeted that a large deployment was under way in the city centre and asked residents to avoid the Mayor-Martin-Donandt square and surrounding streets, in the vicinity of the Lloyd secondary school.

Local news site Nord24 reported that a school pupil heard shots being fired and called the police. Pupils reportedly barricaded themselves in their classrooms.

Police have launched a large-scale operation and have cordoned off the area around the school while they carry out inquiries. 

Authorities have set up a phone hotline for concerned parents. Many parents gathered in front of the school after being alerted by their children, local media reported. 

‘Strict gun laws’

School shootings are relatively rare in Germany, a country with some of the strictest gun laws in Europe. But a recent spate has rattled the population.

Last week, investigators in Germany’s city of Essen said they foiled a school bomb assault, as they arrested a 16-year-old who is suspected to have been planning a “Nazi terror attack”.

Police in Essen stormed the teen’s room overnight, taking him into custody and uncovering 16 “pipe bombs”, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim material.

In January, an 18-year-old student opened fire in a lecture hall at Heidelberg University in southwestern Germany, killing a young woman and
injuring three others before fleeing the scene and turning the weapon on himself.

In 2009, a former pupil killed nine students, three teachers and three passers-by in a school shooting at Winnenden, in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The gunman then killed himself.

In 2002, a 19-year-old former student, apparently in revenge for having been expelled, shot dead 16 people including 12 teachers and two students at a school in the central German city of Erfurt. He too then killed himself.

The Winnenden and Erfurt massacres were carried out with legal weapons and spurred Germany to tighten gun laws.

The country currently requires anyone under 25 to pass a psychiatric exam before applying for a gun licence.

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