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German prosecutors investigating past cases of sexual abuse by priests in the Archdiocese of Munich said they initially investigated the late Pope Benedict XVI on suspicion of complicity, but later dropped the investigation against him, the Associated Press reported.

The Munich prosecutor's office has investigated 45 cases of possible crimes committed by church officials, which came to light from a report on the archdiocese's actions regarding sexual abuse cases between 1945 and 2019.

Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was archbishop there from 1977 to 1982, and the report, which was prepared by a legal firm commissioned by the archdiocese and released in January 2022, criticizes his actions on four counts the case.

The pontiff emeritus, who died in December - nearly ten years after stepping down - asked for forgiveness for any "grave transgressions" he may have made in dealing with such cases, but denied any wrongdoing personally.

The prosecutor's office stated that for a certain period of its investigation, "three living (at the time) church personnel" were named as suspects, DPA reported.

These are Benedict;

Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, his successor in Munich, who served as archbishop from 1982 to 2008;

and Gerhard Gruber, former Vicar General.

They announced the last words of Pope Benedict XVI

The prosecutor's office specified that, over time, all investigative actions against them were terminated due to the lack of "sufficient grounds to suspect the three of committing criminal acts."

In the two cases in which Ratzinger's possible involvement was investigated, the investigation against him was terminated due to the statute of limitations, thereby removing any possible complicity charges against him, the DPA said.

As a cardinal in Rome and later as pope, Benedict XVI did more than anyone before him to bring the Vatican's attention to sexual abuse by clergy.

He pushed through revolutionary changes in church law, allowing priests who committed abuses to be more easily deprived of the priesthood, but there is still much to be done in this direction, noted AP, quoted by BTA.


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