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(RNS) Pope Benedict XVI will meet with the head of Germany’s Catholic bishops on Friday (March 12) to discuss allegations of widespread sexual abuse of children in the pope’s homeland.
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, president of the German bishops’ conference, said through a spokesman that he will brief Benedict on some 170 abuse allegations involving children at Catholic schools. The charges, which surfaced in January, have prompted a possible criminal probe by prosecutors.
In addition, church officials in Regensburg confirmed on Friday (March 5) that a former member of the boys choir there — which was directed for 30 years by the pope’s own brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger — had filed his own allegation of abuse. Ratzinger said he was unaware of any history of abuse, but that he would be willing to testify to prosecutors.
“Enough. We must seriously clean up our church,” Germany’s Cardinal Walter Kasper told the Rome daily La Repubblica. “The guilty must be condemned and the victims compensated.”
Kasper, a former bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, is now the Vatican’s top ecumenical official and a widely respected elder statesman in the church.
The German revelations come amid growing awareness of clerical sex abuse in other European countries.
Hundreds of abuse allegations in the Netherlands that have surfaced within the last week prompted the bishop of Rotterdam to call for an independent investigation there.
Last month, Benedict met with all 24 serving Irish bishops to discuss his forthcoming pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, which will be Benedict’s first major document devoted to clerical sex abuse. The Vatican says the letter will be released before Easter.
Noting the widespread nature of the problem, Kasper suggested that the pope’s letter to Ireland might include a “more general analysis, that might even embrace the universal church and not just one nation.
But it is the Holy Father who must decide that.”
— Francis X. Rocca
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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