Vatican City: Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday accepted the resignation of German bishop Walter Mixa over charges of beating children in a Catholic orphanage more than 20 years ago, the Vatican said.
Mixa, 69, was the bishop of Augsburg in southern Germany and of the German military, and tendered his resignation on Thursday from both posts after admitting to hitting children.
The Pope "has accepted the renunciation of the pastoral government of the Augsburg diocese submitted by Walter Mixa," a Vatican statement said.
He accepted the resignation under a code of canon law that allows the retirement of priests before the legal age of 75 due to "illness" or unspecified "other serious reasons", it said.
The Pope acted the day after German prosecutors said they were also probing paedophilia claims against Mixa, following media reports that he had been accused of sexually abusing a boy while bishop of Eichstaett between 1996 and 2005.
The German weekly Focus said Saturday the pope had been told by senior German clergy of the sexual abuse allegations against Mixa before he resigned.
Mixa, 69, at first rebuffed allegations that he beat children and youths at the Schrobenhausen orphanage between 1975 and 1996 in the face of several sworn statements from his accusers.
But on April 21 he tendered his resignation to Benedict after admitting giving youngsters in his care "a slap in the face or two", which he said was "completely normal back then."
In common with other European countries and the United States, the pope`s native Germany has been rocked by revelations that children were physically and sexually abused in institutions, the vast majority run by the Church.
Most of the alleged abuse took place too long ago for authorities to be able to bring criminal proceedings but there have been calls to extend the statute of limitations. The scandal has badly damaged the standing of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, and also of the pope, whose appointment five years ago as leader of the world`s 1.1 billion Catholics was a source of great national pride.
The Augsburger Allgemeine daily cited a lawyer for Mixa, long known as a hardliner who in February blamed sexual abuse of children by priests in part on "the so-called sexual revolution", as rejecting the latest accusations.
The diocese of Augsburg said it had alerted prosecutors to the accusations in line with new German Bishops` Conference guidelines following sharp criticism that the Church had not done enough to investigate in the past.
Mixa`s lawyer Gerhard Decker told the nt-v television station Saturday that Mixa rejected the latest allegations but was prepared to cooperate with investigators.