Pope under fire for allowing paedophile priest to continue as minister

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Rome, Mar. 13 (ANI): With the emergence of reports that Pope Benedict allowed a paedophile priest to continue with the ministry, the Bishop of Rome has been drawn directly into the Roman Catholic sex abuse scandal.

The priest, who was convicted of child abuse, was sent from Essen to Munich for therapy in 1980 on the approval of the Pope, who was then a cardinal, The Times reports.

In 1986, the paedophile cleric, recognized as H, was given an 18-month suspended jail sentence and fined DM 4,000 (1,800 pounds today).

According to the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, there had been no complaints against H during the therapy at a church community in Munich.

It added that the decision to let him continue working in Grafing was taken by Gerhard Gruber, now 81, who was vicar general of the archdiocese.

An American group, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said: "It boggles the mind to hear a German Catholic official claim that a credibly accused paedophile priest was reassigned to parish work without the knowledge of his boss, then-Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger."

However, Gruber was quoted by the paper as saying that the Pope was not aware of his decision because there were 1,000 priests in the diocese at the time and he had left many decisions to lower-level officials.

"The repeated employment of H in pastoral duties was a serious mistake ... I deeply regret that this decision led to offences against youths. I apologise to all those who were harmed," he said.

He did not indicate whether the convicted paedophile would be allowed to continue working in the church.

Any expulsion of a priest from the Church, however, must go through the Vatican. (ANI)

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