MUNICH — The archbishop of Munich and Freising begged forgiveness on Friday for "everything those working for the church have done" as he presented a report showing that more than 250 priests and religion teachers abused children in a diocese that was once presided over by Pope Benedict XVI.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who commissioned the report, said the Roman Catholic Church in Germany will have to work to regain the trust it has lost since reports of abuse at the hands of German priests broke earlier this year.
"We want to learn from our bad mistakes and misconduct of the past," Marx said. "And as archbishop, I also ask for forgiveness in the name of the church for everything that those working for the church have done."
Lawyer Marion Westphal examined some 13,200 documents from the diocese, spanning from 1945 to 2009, for the report. She said at a news conference Friday that she had found instances of abuse by 159 priests, but she underlined that "we must assume the real number is much higher," given that countless documents that are believed to have served as evidence of wrongdoing were missing or appeared to have been purposely destroyed.
Of those priests determined to have been abusive, some 26 were involved in cases of a sexual nature, all of which were prosecuted according to church regulations at the time, she said. None of the priests are still alive. The other cases involved physical abuse.
The report also said 96 religion teachers commissioned by the diocese to hold classes on Catholicism in regional schools were abusive, one of them sexually.