World News

Resigning German bishop accused of sexual abuse

BERLIN (Reuters) - German prosecutors are investigating accusations of sexual abuse by a Roman Catholic bishop in Pope Benedict’s native Bavaria, authorities said on Friday.

Walter Mixa is silhouetted as he talks to media before start of Bishops conference in Bad Waldsee April 10, 2007. REUTERS/Miro Kuzmanovic

Prosecutors and church officials said an investigation had been opened but gave no further details of the accusations of abuse against Bishop Walter Mixa, who has already offered to resign after being accused of hitting children.

A spokesman for the diocese of Eichstaett said the accusations referred to a time between 1996 and 2000 when Mixa, currently the bishop of Augsburg in the predominantly Catholic Bavaria, was bishop of Eichstaett, also in the state.

The Augsburg diocese said it had provided information to prosecutors after a meticulous examination of the accusations.

“The Augsburg diocese has transmitted details to the appropriate authorities according to the guidelines of the German Bishops’ Conference,” the diocese said in a statement.

Earlier the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper reported, without naming its sources, that Mixa was accused of abusing a boy while bishop of Eichstaett.

Mixa’s lawyer, Gerhard Decker, denied the accusations against the 69-year old bishop, who also faces allegations of financial misconduct. “My client fully rejects the accusations now made against him, and will do his utmost to work with prosecutors in Ingolstadt to clear up the matter completely,” Decker told the newspaper.

Mixa wrote to the pope in April to offer his resignation, after denying for weeks that he had hit children in the 1970s and 1980s before later admitting he had slapped them. Some victims say he hit them with full force in the face.

The accusations revealed Friday were the first made of sexual abuse. Mixa had previously asked for forgiveness from those he says he may have slighted.

German daily Die Welt reported Friday that the Vatican had accepted Mixa’s resignation, saying that it expected an announcement to be made in Rome and Augsburg at noon on Saturday. The paper cited unnamed church sources in Rome.

A survey published last month found that a quarter of Germany’s Catholics were considering leaving the church following reports of hundreds of cases, some many decades old, of sexual abuse by clerics.

Reporting by Sabine Siebold, writing by Brian Rohan; editing by David Stamp