German church probes abuse claim
Germany's Catholic church announced two major child abuse investigations, one into the choir once led by the pope's brother and another into what everyone knew about the treatment of youngsters.
The diocese of Regensburg appointed an independent investigator to examine the allegations of physical and sexual abuse that have engulfed the prestigious Regensburger Domspatzen boys choir, led by the Rev Georg Ratzinger, the pope's older brother, from 1964 until 1994. So far, the sexual abuse allegations predate his term.
A spokesman said all charges will be investigated thoroughly.
"The independent lawyer will thoroughly go through all existing legal papers, all court decisions and any information available," he said. "We expect to publish first results within the next two weeks."
Meanwhile the German Bishop's Conference said it would look into wider-ranging allegations across the country after more than 170 pupils at Catholic schools have said they were sexually or physically abused decades ago.
The investigation will also examine allegations of sexual abuse at the choir and look into what, if anything, the pope knew in his previous position as the archbishop of Munich.
Prelate Karl Juesten said: "We do not know if the pope knew about the abuse cases at the time. However, we assume that this is not the case." Munich Archbishop Reinhard Marx will be "certainly investigating these questions," he said.
Prelate Juesten, the liaison between Roman Catholic bishops and the German government, also praised the pope's brother for apologising to victims yesterday for doing nothing decades ago to stop the beating of students.
Ratzinger said students told him of allegations of physical abuse at an elementary school in Germany decades ago and apologised for doing nothing about it.
The Roman Catholic Church has been hit by years of abuse claims in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia and other countries. Yet the German abuse allegations are particularly sensitive because Germany is the pope's homeland and because the scandals involve the prestigious choir led by his brother for 30 years.