VATICAN CITY (AFP) – – The Vatican fought attempts to link Pope Benedict XVI to child sex abuse in a counteroffensive on Saturday against widening paedophilia scandals.
“It is clearly evident that in the past few days there are some who have sought — with a dogged focus on Regensburg and Munich — elements to personally implicate the Holy Father in questions of abuse,” spokesman Federico Lombardi said.
“It is clear that these efforts have failed,” he said on Radio Vatican.
On Friday, the pope’s former diocese of Munich confirmed a report that, as an archbishop in 1980, the pontiff approved housing for a priest who had been accused of forcing an 11-year-old boy to perform oral sex.
Six years later, the priest was given a suspended prison sentence for child sex offences. The archdiocese said he still works in Bavaria, with no known repeat violations.
The disclosure added to a growing scandal in Germany that had already come close to Pope Benedict’s brother Georg Ratzinger, a former choirmaster.
The first revelations emerged in January when an elite Jesuit school in Berlin admitted systematic sexual abuse of pupils by two priests in the 1970s and 1980s.
Among other boarding schools since implicated is one attached to the Domspatzen (“Cathedral Sparrows”), Regensburg cathedral’s thousand-year-old choir which was run for 30 years by the pope’s older brother.
Ratzinger, 86, said on Tuesday that the alleged sexual abuse in the 1950s and 1960s — before his time — was “never discussed”.
In an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel a former choirboy Thomas Mayer said he was raped by older boys at a time when Ratzinger ran the choir.
He also said Ratzinger had violent fits of outrage during rehearsals.
“Ratzinger, I saw him extremely angry and irascible during rehearsals,” Mayer said. “Several times I saw him throw a chair at the male voices, which I was part of.” Once he was so angry that he spat his dentures out.
Ratzinger recently acknowledged that he had “given slaps” at the beginning of his tenure and that he had always had a “bad conscience” about it and felt “relieved” when a law banning corporal punishment was made in the early 1980s.
A proliferation of abuse scandals across Europe has prompted deep soul-searching among church leaders, not least in Germany where 19 of the 27 dioceses have been implicated in allegations. Facts: Main abuse scandals facing the Church
Vatican spokesman Lombardi said on Saturday that the pope “encouraged” “recognising the truth and helping victims” in cases of abuse, adding that the line of the Church was not “to cover up these offences but … to judge and adequately punish” offenders.
Most of the priests concerned are not expected to face criminal charges because the alleged crimes took place too long ago. But there have been growing calls for a change in the law and for the church to pay compensation.
Writing in the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano, the Bishop of Alessandria in northern Italy, Giuseppe Versaldi, criticised the attacks on the Church and said the pope had fought hard to tackle the problem of sex abuse.
“It is thanks to the pope’s increased rigour that different episcopal conferences have shone light on cases of sexual abuse and worked with civil authorities to achieve justice for the victims,” the bishop wrote in a front-page article.
A senior Vatican official sought to downplay the child sex abuse scandals in an interview with a newspaper.
Charles Scicluna told Italian newspaper Avennire, which is close to the Vatican, that 300 “cases of priests accused of paedophilia” had been counted between 2001 and 2010 out of 400,000 priests and other clergy overall.
“Of course it’s too much, but it has to be acknowledged that the phenomenon is not as widespread as is being made out,” he said.BVa
American Islamic State ‘sniper’ charged in New York: Justice Dept
A naturalized American who was a sniper for the Islamic State group has been charged in New York with material support for a terror group after being captured in Syria and repatriated to the United States, the Justice Department announced Friday.
Kazakhstan-born Ruslan Maratovich Asainov fought for the Islamic State in Syria for five years before he was captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces and handed over to US custody, the department said.
Asainov, 43, was brought back to the United States on Thursday and was to be arraigned Friday afternoon in federal court in Brooklyn.
He fought for IS in Syria from 2013 to 2018 as a sniper and a weapons trainer for other combatants.
WATCH: Employee at Tim Hortons slurs Muslim couple and tells them ‘go back to your own country’
According to a report from Deadline Detroit, a Muslim advocacy group has filed a complaint against a local Tim Horton's location after an employee insulted a Muslim couple and told them to "go back to their own country," followed by a sexist slur.
The report states Alaa Kouider and her husband, Ameur Dhaimini, were purchasing coffee at the local fast food location when they got into an argument with the cashier.
President Bolsonaro says claims of hunger in Brazil ‘a big lie’
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Friday there was no hunger in the country, citing the lack of "poor people in the street with a skeletal physique" as evidence.
Speaking to foreign journalists, Bolsonaro blamed "populists" for propagating "a big lie" that some of Brazil's 209 million people did not have enough to eat.
"There is no hunger," the far-right leader said, noting Brazil "was rich in practically every type of crop".
"You don't see poor people in the street with a skeletal physique like in other countries.
"To say that there is hunger in Brazil is a populist discourse to try to win popular sympathy, nothing more than that."