Cardinals Recall Pope Benedict XVI Outreach to Victims, Action Against Abusers

Cardinals Fernando Filoni and Christoph Schönborn talked to the Press and presented eyewitness accounts of how Pope Benedict reacted to allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

Newsroom  (31/11/2021 1:30 PM, Gaudium Press) Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Grandmaster of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, distributed his “testimony” about Pope Benedict to the media on Jan 28.
He wanted to present an eyewitness account of how Pope Benedict reacted to allegations of clerical sexual abuse and, especially, to the survivors of abuse in the wake of reports on Benedict’s handling of cases when he was archbishop of Munich.
The report, released Jan 20, accused then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of mishandling four cases.

The depths of human sin and depravity -noted Card. Filoni- “distressed him intimately, and he sometimes remained silent for a long time — all the more so if these human miseries were the responsibility of men of the church.”
Filoni, who served as an aide to now-retired Pope Benedict XVI and was present at his meetings with survivors of clerical sexual abuse, affirmed that he “never found in him any shadow or attempt to hide or minimize anything.”
Card. Filoni also served as “sostituto” or substitute for general affairs in the Vatican Secretariat of State from 2007 to 2011. While in that role, he met with then-Pope Benedict at least once a week and, in addition, oversaw the organization of papal trips abroad.
“He had a clear sensitivity for the victims,” the cardinal said. “When, in preparation for apostolic trips — to the United States, Australia, etc. — he received requests for meetings with victims of abuse. He spoke to me about it; he wanted to know my thoughts on how to accommodate these requests,” assured Filoni.

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Meeting the Victims

Pope Benedict always urged on keeping a “deep respect for the victims whose identity had to be safeguarded. Therefore, he wanted the meetings to take place far from the gaze of cameras” and insisted the meetings should not be like an “audience” with a simple handshake and exchange of pleasantries. These meetings had “a spiritual dimension and took place in front of God, from whom we had to implore mercy.”
He recalls that Pope Benedict met the survivors in a chapel and prayed with them and “listened, with visible and palpable emotion. In those meetings, -Filoni noted-there was not only the sense of a humiliation suffered by the victims; but also the humiliation of a man of the church who could never have imagined that such degrading actions could happen’, and yet now offered the balm of prayer and the relief of a solidarity in the name of that God.”
“There was a request for forgiveness from the whole church to God, and there was a commitment that would see Benedict XVI combine mercy and justice, which he did through measures that previously had not existed,” the cardinal said, referring to policies and procedures the former pope enacted to improve the handling of allegations and give justice to victims.

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn

According to KNA, the German Catholic news agency, on Jan 28, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna also spoke positively of the former pope’s handling of abuse during an interview with ORF of Austria.
Referring to the case of the previous archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër, Schönborn said then-Cardinal Ratzinger, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had been “our pillar of support in Rome.”
Cardinal Ratzinger, he said, demanded that “action be taken” against Groër, who was forced to step down as archbishop of Vienna in 1995 amid allegations he had sexually abused five former male students in the 1960s and 1970s. As other allegations followed, in 1998, St. John Paul ordered Groër to give up his public ministry.

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