Top German bishop probed over sex abuse claims

Paedophilia claims have been brought up against a bishop who had earlier admitted beating orphans.

Last Updated: May 08, 2010, 10:47 AM IST

Berlin: Germany`s Catholic Church was in fresh turmoil on Friday after prosecutors said they were probing paedophilia claims against a top bishop who had offered his resignation after admitting beating orphans.

Prosecutors in the southern city of Augsburg said that they had opened a preliminary probe into Walter Mixa after media reports said he had been accused of sexually abusing a boy while bishop of Eichstaett between 1996 and 2005.

Mixa, 69, at first rebuffed allegations that he beat children and youths at a Roman Catholic orphanage in the 1970s and 1980s in the face of several sworn statements from his accusers.

But on April 21, he tendered his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI 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.