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Offline mayya

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Ex-Pope Benedict denies covering up sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests

Excerpts of letter to author published in newspaper are first to address the subject since his retirement

 Reuters in Vatican City, Tuesday 24 September 2013 16.39 BST

Benedict resigned in February. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Former Pope Benedict has denied that he tried to cover up sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests, in his first direct published comments since he stepped down.

The comments came in an 11-page letter to Italian author and mathematician Piergiorgio Odifreddi, who wrote a book about the problems facing the Roman Catholic church before the pope resigned in February.

"As far as you mentioning the moral abuse of minors by priests I can only, as you know, acknowledge it with profound consternation. But I never tried to cover up these things," Benedict, who now has the title emeritus pope, said.

Excerpts of Benedict's letter were published in La Repubblica on Tuesday with the former pope's permission.

It was believed to be the first time Benedict has responded to the sexual abuse accusations in the first person, although the Vatican has always said he did much to put an end to sexual abuse of minors by priests and never tried to cover it up.

It was also the first time since Benedict resigned on 26 February that anything precise that he has written or said was published, although some people who have visited him in the Vatican house where he is living out retirement have indirectly reported to outsiders some of his comments to them.

Victims' groups have accused Benedict of not doing enough to stop the abuse of children by priests while he was pope and before when he was head of the Vatican's doctrinal office.

The rest of the letter from Benedict to Odifreddi referred to other aspects of the author's book, called Dear Pope, I Am Writing You, such as the conflict between good and evil.