Surrounded by many of his brother priests, Father Jeffrey J. Walsh, center, celebrates his first Mass after his ordination at Saint Vincent de Paul Church in Scranton on June 26, 1994. Father Eugene Gunning, pastor, and Msgr. Kenneth Roeltgen, rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, were among those who served as concelebrants.

SCRANTON – As Bishop-elect Jeffrey J. Walsh prepares to leave the Diocese of Scranton to minister to the faithful in the Diocese of Gaylord, his brother priests, many who have served alongside him for 27 years are reflecting on his many gifts and talents.

“Father Walsh is truly a servant leader. He understands that to serve is to lead and to lead is to serve and he will do it well,” Monsignor Joseph G. Quinn, pastor, Saint John Neumann Parish and Saint Paul of the Cross Parish, said.

“He’s a very gifted priest and there’s a quality of holiness that is really significant in his life and that permeates when he has conversations with people,” Father Thomas M. Muldowney, pastor, Saint Catherine of Siena Parish, said.

Monsignor William J. Feldcamp knew Jeffrey Walsh and his family long before he decided to become a priest. When Father Walsh was ordained in 1994, his first assignment was to serve along Monsignor Feldcamp as assistant pastor at Saint Rose of Lima Parish in Carbondale.

Even as a young priest, Msgr. Feldcamp recognized the abilities of his young assistant.

“I would say the biggest thing that stood out was the fact that he was very energized by serving people. He loved to go visit the hospitals. He loved to go and do communion calls, to visit the sick. Anytime there was any kind of social need with the poor or needy, he was right on deck to help,” Msgr. Feldcamp recalled.

Feldcamp believes Bishop-elect Walsh can best be described as a “missionary disciple.”

Father Jeffrey J. Walsh, far left, participates in “Cathedral Capers” with several of his brother priests in this undated photo. “Cathedral Capers,” a long-running fundraiser started by Msgr. Joseph G. Quinn allowed priests to show off their talents while raising money at the same time.

“He always will put himself out to help other people, to help the church in whatever which way he can. He’ll reach out to go on trips with youth. He’ll help with formation of priests,” he said.

After two years in Carbondale, in 1996, Bishop-elect Walsh became assistant pastor at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton, where Monsignor Quinn served as rector.

“He was filled with energy and enthusiasm in a wonderful way. He gave such added life to everything at the Cathedral but what I loved most of all was that he was always genuinely prayerful, sincerely humble and really selfless in every way,” Msgr. Quinn explained.

Whether working with youth, running mission trips or assisting with the long-running fundraiser “Cathedral Capers,” Msgr. Quinn said Bishop-elect Walsh always put everything in a positive light.

“I’m still smiling about his recent letter in his own parish bulletin at Saint Rose where he said there are three things he was looking forward to as he heads out to Michigan,” Msgr. Quinn said. “One is meeting a moose, two is seeing the night lights at the Great Lakes and the third is driving a snowmobile. Who else could put it in that context? He’s smiling throughout it all and bravely, selflessly and courageously going forward as a leader needed in today’s church.”

Bishop-elect Walsh has also held a number of administrative positions, including Vicar for Clergy, where he often worked side-by-side with Father Muldowney, who previously served as Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia.

Father Muldowney said his long-time friend is authentic in the way he presents himself, celebrates Mass and has conversations.

“The Diocese of Gaylord is getting a fantastic bishop just because of his priestly zeal, holiness and authentic way of life,” Father Muldowney related. “I know the giftedness that he has and that’s a blessing he’s going to give to the faithful of the Diocese of Gaylord.”

When all three priests were asked to give Bishop-elect words of advice, each said almost the same exact thing.

“Be who you are. That’s the advice that I would give him,” Father Muldowney said. “Who he is, is why the Church called him to be a bishop.”

“Don’t change. Be you. Be the real person that everyone in this diocese has loved with every assignment he’s had. Be the humble, honest human, humorous soul that we all know him to be and he will be equally enlivened and at the service of the Church,” Msgr. Quinn said.

“My words of advice would be to be yourself,” Msgr. Feldcamp added. “Because you have all the qualities needed to be a successful bishop. You’re a blessing for the Church and I’m sure everybody in northeastern Pennsylvania is very proud of you. Our prayers go with you and don’t be a stranger. When you come back, let us see you and let us know how you’re doing!”

Joe Mahoney

SCRANTON – The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, has announced that Joe Mahoney has been named Diocesan Secretary for Catholic Human Services and Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Social Services. Mahoney began his new position on Jan. 31, 2022, and this marks the fourth Catholic Social Services agency for which he has worked.

Mahoney joins the Diocese after most recently serving as Chief Operating Officer of the Pueblo Housing Authority in Colorado. Prior to that position, Mahoney spent ten years as the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Pueblo. During his tenure, Mahoney focused on early childhood education, homelessness prevention, workforce readiness and immigration services. From 2011 to 2014, Mahoney was also elected to serve on the Executive Committee of the Catholic Charities Council of Diocesan Directors.

Mahoney has a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from Regis University. Before joining Catholic Charities of Pueblo, he spent two years coordinating disaster response operations for Catholic Charities USA in Alexandria, Va., and two additional years working as Program Director for Katrina Aid Today with Catholic Charities of New Orleans following the devastation done by Hurricane Katrina.

“I am pleased to welcome Joe Mahoney to our Diocesan family as the new Diocesan Secretary for Catholic Human Services and Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Social Services. Joe has a passion for helping others and is dedicated to community engagement, all of which is underpinned by his strong ministry to the Catholic faith,” Bishop Bambera said. “Joe’s vision, experience and leadership capabilities will help us to continue serving individuals and families in need and grow our presence across northeastern and north central Pennsylvania.”

“It is an honor and privilege to take on this new position. I am excited and enthusiastic to begin working with our boards, staff and many volunteers to provide help and create hope for those in need in our Diocese,” Joe Mahoney said.

As Diocesan Secretary for Catholic Human Services and Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Social Services, Mahoney is responsible for providing leadership, administration and oversight of all programs operated by Catholic Human Services and Catholic Social Services. He will also oversee the fundraising efforts and community outreach to ensure the organization is meeting the vision, mission and values of the Diocese.

For nearly 100 years, the mission of Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton has been to serve individuals and families in poverty and hardship, as we are called by Christ to do, and to respond compassionately to their needs. The agency provides assistance to tens-of-thousands of men, women and children on an annual basis. To learn more about the food assistance, housing, shelter, relief, pregnancy and maternal health, children and youth programs, or immigration assistance programs provided, visit:

Mahoney is a former Marine Corps Officer and is married to Nhung Mahoney.

Mary Hallman

SCRANTON – The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, has announced that Mary Hallman has been named Diocesan Secretary for Parish Life. Hallman was selected from a number of highly qualified candidates following an extensive nationwide search process. She began her new position on Jan. 3, 2022.

Hallman joins the Diocese after most recently serving as Director of Evangelization in the Diocese of Syracuse for eight years. In that position, she worked closely with both clergy and lay leaders, forming relationships and building trust, in an effort to create vibrant parishes and form disciples of Jesus Christ. Through her experiences in that position, Hallman is keenly aware of the many obstacles that parishes face and has been successful in collaboratively implementing innovative solutions.

Prior to her work at the diocesan level, Hallman also served for five years in parish ministry as Director of Evangelization & Catechesis at Saint Charles/Saint Ann Parish in Syracuse. During that time, she assisted in implementing a parish strategy for conversion and discipleship that was inclusive of adults, children and youth.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, Irvine, and a master’s degree in theology from Augustine Institute in Denver, Colo.

“Mary’s skills and qualifications will be a tremendous asset to the Office for Parish Life and all of our parishes, especially as we continue our long-range pastoral planning process in the Diocese of Scranton,” Bishop Bambera said. “She shares the Diocese of Scranton’s mission of calling all the baptized to imitate the servant leadership of Jesus and to enter into a personal relationship with Him.”

“In my short time in the Diocese of Scranton, I have come to know so many people who are committed to building a more vibrant Church that meets the needs of the poor and the disenfranchised. God is already at work,” Hallman said. “I believe God has provided us with everything we need; our challenge is to intentionally call forth the gifts and talents of the laity so each person recognizes their particular role in the missionary work of our parishes. The future depends on our willingness to surrender our lives to Christ and live distinctively, in a way that is attractive to those who are far from the Church. We are all called to grow as disciples.”

As Diocesan Secretary for Parish Life, Hallman is responsible for overseeing the Office for Parish Life and its team, as well as regularly interacting with Regional Episcopal Vicars, Deans, Pastors, Priests, Parish Life Coordinators and Deacons regarding diocesan initiatives and services related to parish vitality. She will also play a key role in the Vision 2030 Blueprint Process, which is the long-range pastoral planning process for the Diocese of Scranton.

While looking proactively at the realities of our local church in the present moment, Vision 2030 strives to meet the opportunities and challenges of the coming decade in order to create vibrant expressions of parish life rooted in the life of Jesus Christ.

“The collaborative style of Bishop Bambera and his leadership team is what brought me to the Diocese of Scranton. Like most dioceses, especially during COVID, we have challenges, but we are able to see them together and share our hopes and dreams. It’s an exciting time, with lots of opportunities! I’m hoping the experiences of my life – as a Catholic school student, a college student involved in campus ministry, a youth ministry coordinator, Director of Faith Formation for linked parishes, and diocesan Director of Evangelization – allow me to contribute from a variety of perspectives. With the great team in place in the Office for Parish Life, we look forward to supporting parishes through the Vision 2030 process and beyond,” Hallman added.

Hallman welcomes the opportunity to network and collaborate with clergy and parish staffs. She can be reached in the Office for Parish Life at (570) 207-2213.

Ada Magni, right, joins other members of the Order of Alhambra in prayer during the Diocese of Scranton’s annual Disabilities Awareness Mass on Feb. 13, 2022.

SCRANTON – Community groups and organizations that assist individuals with special needs came together on Feb. 13 at the Cathedral of Saint Peter to celebrate a Mass for Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities Awareness.

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, served as principal celebrant and homilist.

The Order of Alhambra, which has a local caravan, Alhamar No. 4, had several members attend the Mass.

“We can’t forget people that are God’s special children. They may be overlooked but we always want to remember them in our hearts and this is a wonderful opportunity to do that,” Ada Magni, Deputy Supreme Director and Scribe of the Exchequer, said.

The Order of Alhambra is a social organization dedicated to providing assistance to the intellectually disabled. It provides activities and support for special needs children and adults. Each year, the order also provides scholarships to educate undergraduate students studying to become special education teachers.

“We try to always help group homes. We go visiting at the White Haven Center singing Christmas carols, the Saint Joseph House, the Alhambra House, we go there as well,” Magni added.

Sister Maryalice Jacquinot, IHM, President & CEO of Saint Joseph’s Center, represented her residents and staff at the special liturgy.

“I really appreciate this annual liturgy because it is affirming to the people that we support and it also helps to build community within the Church and the broader society to say that everyone is accepted, everybody is welcome,” Sister Maryalice explained.

The mission of Saint Joseph’s Center is to provide individuals and families who have special needs the opportunity to develop their abilities and potential to the fullest extent possible. The organization has residential, community and home-based services.

For the last two years, many of the residents at Saint Joseph’s Center have been limited in their interactions with the broader community for health and safety reasons during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because the Mass for Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities Awareness was broadcast on Catholic Television, many residents were still able to take part.

“Prayer still unites. It crosses all boundaries,” Sister Maryalice added.

During his homily, Bishop Bambera emphasized that all individuals have gifts to share with the church and society. He said individuals with special needs provide us all with priceless lessons on how to live as disciples of Jesus.

“You teach us that we are all a part of God’s plan and each of us is blessed by God for being just the way we are,” Bishop Bambera said.

Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, celebrates Mass for the World Day for the Sick on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

SCRANTON – Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, celebrated Mass for the 30th World Day of the Sick on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

The annual Mass is an opportunity to devote special attention to the sick and to those who provide them with assistance and care both in health care institutions and within families and communities.

The Mass also featured the Litany of Anointing.

“Through Jesus’ example of selfless love, we find the pattern for our life’s journey. Through His cross and resurrection, we discover the path to salvation. Through this wonderful Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, every one of us who approaches it with faith and hope will be touched by the closeness of God’s love. Some of us may experience a physical healing. All of us will encounter the merciful presence of the Lord Jesus who promises to touch our spirits and give us peace,” the bishop said.

SCRANTON – The 2021 Diocesan Annual Appeal, Rising Together in Christ, has raised more than $4.1 million in gifts and pledges, currently bringing the campaign to 91% of the $4.5 million goal. Forty-seven parishes have surpassed their parish goal for the Annual Appeal.

“I am grateful to all of our Diocesan parishioners, pastors, parish representatives and regional chairs who support the Diocesan Annual Appeal. Your continued generosity to our local Church makes it possible for our Diocesan ministries to positively impact thousands of lives each year,” Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, said. “With support from parishioners at all of our parishes, I believe we have an opportunity to reach the Appeal goal this year. Our local Church is best when each one of us uses our gifts to build up one another.”

“Due to the pandemic, we have not been reaching our Appeal goal in the past few years. This has an impact on the services we are able to offer and the number of people we are able to serve. With the help of parishioners throughout the Diocese, we have an opportunity to reach the Appeal goal this year and fully serve all those who come to us in need,” Jim Bebla, Diocesan Secretary for Development, added. “Gifts of any amount, when combined with the gifts of others, make a tremendous impact on the lives of others.”

Diocesan programs and services rely on gifts to the Annual Appeal – ministries such as Catholic Social Services and parish social justice programs that compassionately provide to those most in need in our community; education in our parishes and schools that prepare children for fulfilling, responsible and faith-centered lives; sustained support for our current and retired priests and those preparing for the priesthood; faith formation programs that strengthen our parish communities; and Catholic communication programs that spread the Gospel and build up the body of Christ.

For information on the Diocesan programs supported by Appeal or to make a donation online, visit Gifts may also be made by calling the Diocesan Development Office at (570) 207-2250 or by sending a donation to: Diocesan Annual Appeal, 300 Wyoming Ave., Scranton, PA, 18503-1279.

An Ecumenical Celebration of the Word of God took place on Jan. 19, 2022, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton. The event was held as part of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022. The theme of this year’s service was “We Saw the Star in the East, and We Came to Worship Him” (cf. Matthew 2:2).

SCRANTON – The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, joined several other faith leaders for an Ecumenical Celebration of the Word of God on Jan. 19, 2022, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter.

The prayer service was the Diocese of Scranton’s keynote event for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022. The theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was, “We saw the star in the East, and we came to worship him” (cf. Matthew 2:2).

The theme, taken from the second chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, is the Epiphany. Each year in January, the Church recalls the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem, highlighting God’s invitation to all of humanity to a new covenant in the Incarnation of Christ.

“The story of the magi, who are the last to arrive in Bethlehem in Matthew’s infancy narrative, carries with it all sorts of rich imagery even as their arrival in Bethlehem triggered the unleashing of evil and hatred aimed at the newborn Christ and his mission of mercy and salvation,” Bishop Bambera noted during his sermon. “Their arrival and welcome also revealed something else; Jesus’ message of hope was extended to all peoples through his self-sacrificing and unconditional love.”

More than ever before, the bishop said people need to embrace the message proclaimed in Scripture.

“Epiphany celebrates God’s all-inclusive love manifested in the life of his Son, Jesus, something integrally woven into the work of ecumenism,” he added. “Sadly, as with some of the earliest followers of Jesus, some of us still act as if God is our sole possession. Some still attempt to place parameters around where God is able to work, with whom and how.”

In the great prayer from the seventeenth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel, Jesus asks four times that his disciples be “one,” as he and his Father are one.
Bishop Bambera suggested three areas that can help fulfill Jesus’ prayer for unity.

First, the bishop said the work of official dialogues between Christian churches must continue.

Participating in the prayer service were, first row from left: Monsignor Vincent J. Grimalia, Coordinator for Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations, Diocese of Scranton, and Coordinator of the Ecumenical Celebration; Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton; Reverend Rebecca Barnes, Pastor, Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church, Scranton and President, Scranton Area Ministerium; Reverend Bonnie Bates, Conference Minister, Penn Northeast Conference and United Church of Christ, Palmerton; and Most Reverend Anthony Mikovsky, Prime Bishop, Polish National Catholic Church, Scranton. Second row, from left:
Pastor Dave Twiss, Assemblies of God Lead Pastor, Green Ridge Assembly of God Church, Scranton and Presbyter, North East Section of the Pennsylvania Delaware Ministry Network of the Assemblies of God; and Rebecca Tanner, Presbyterian Church, USA. (Photos/Mike Melisky)

“In the Catholic Church alone, when I completed my term as Chair of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, I was privileged to have overseen a dozen active dialogues in the United States alone, with more on the horizon,” the bishop explained.

The second area the bishop focused on was encouraging people to participate in the Synod on Synodality.

“Because a synodal Church is a Church which listens, we have been challenged to recognize that this listening should concern the totality of those who are honored by the name of Christian,” Bishop Bambera explained.

The third and final area that Bishop Bambera emphasized is our common witness to the love of Christ within us, which is poured forth in service to the least among us.

People in wheelchairs wait for the start of Mass marking World Day of the Sick, in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 11, 2022. The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Peter Turkson, former prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Caring for the sick means not only healing the wounds of the body but also those that afflict the soul, Pope Francis said.

“Care cannot be divided because the human being cannot be divided. We could – paradoxically – save the body and lose humanity,” the pope said in a video message on the eve of the 30th World Day of the Sick, which is celebrated Feb. 11 each year.

“The saints who cared for the sick always followed the Master’s teaching: heal the wounds of body and soul; pray and act for physical and spiritual healing together,” he said.

The pope’s message, which was released by the Vatican Feb. 10, was sent to participants of a webinar hosted by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

In his message, the pope said that the current pandemic “is teaching us to view illness as a global and not a merely individual phenomenon” and should motivate reflection on other types of “pathologies” that threaten humanity, including individualism and indifference.

These and other forms of selfishness, he said, generate inequalities, especially in the field of health care “where some enjoy so-called ‘excellence'” while many others “struggle to access basic health care.”

“To cure this ‘social’ virus, the antidote is the culture of fraternity, based on the awareness that we are all equal as human persons, all equal as children of one God,” he said. “On this basis, it will be possible to have effective treatments for everyone. But if we are not convinced that we are all equal, this will not work.”

Cardinal Peter Turkson, former prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, echoed Pope Francis’ sentiments during his homily Feb. 11 at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with people who are sick and with their caregivers.

Reflecting on the divine consolation that God gives to his children, Cardinal Turkson said Christians are also called to pass on that consolation to those who suffer in body and soul.

“Consolation means to encourage, to exhort, to comfort or to give joy to a person or community that finds themselves in a situation of sadness, anguish and desolation,” he said.

Those who dedicate their lives to consoling others, the cardinal said, draw inspiration from God who throughout history “has been close to a wounded humanity in order to comfort, strengthen and heal it.”

The commemoration of the World Day of the Sick, he added, is a “celebration of God’s works of mercy,” especially through those who work tirelessly in the health care field.

“May your hands, which touch the suffering flesh of Christ, be a sign of the merciful hands of the Father,” Cardinal Turkson said before he and the concelebrating bishops administered the sacramental anointing of the sick to many people in the congregation.

Pope Francis visits with Pope Benedict XVI at the retired pope’s residence after a consistory at the Vatican in this Nov. 28, 2020, file photo. This photo was released by the Vatican Feb. 9 after Pope Francis, at his general audience, praised Pope Benedict’s comment in a statement the previous day recognizing his own presence before “the dark door of death.” (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis was among those showing their support for retired Pope Benedict XVI, sending his predecessor “a beautiful letter,” according to the former pope’s secretary.

In the letter, Pope Francis “speaks as a shepherd, as a brother” and “expressed once again his complete trust, his full support and also his prayers,” said the secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein.

The archbishop spoke to the Italian news program TG1 Feb. 9 about the retired pope’s letter in response to a report on sexual abuse cases in the German Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, which the former pope headed as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger from 1977 to 1982.

Pope Benedict, who has denied allegations of mishandling four cases of clerical sexual abuse put forth by the report, emphasized in a letter Feb. 8 his feelings of great shame and sorrow for the abuse of minors and made a request for forgiveness to all victims of sexual abuse.

Archbishop Gänswein was asked to respond to criticisms by some victims’ advocates and media in Germany that Pope Benedict’s apology was insufficient.

“Whoever reads the letter in a sincere way, the way in which the letter was written, cannot agree with these criticisms or these accusations. He asks all victims of abuse for forgiveness,” he said.

The archbishop, who started working with the former pope in 1996 at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and became his personal secretary in 2003, was asked how he saw the pope react to the growing abuse scandals during his tenure.

A clear indication of how the pope felt, the archbishop said, can be seen in the meditations he wrote as cardinal for the Good Friday Way of the Cross in 2005, writing forcefully about how much “filth there is in the church,” even among those in the priesthood.

There are measures, documents and evidence that show how much he, first as Cardinal Ratzinger, then as Pope Benedict, did “in order to make progress in a cleanup from within in a suitable way,” Archbishop Gänswein said.

Asked about the allegations of mishandling of abuse cases when the pope was archbishop of Munich, the aide said no evidence of his guilt was presented in the report.

“The accused does not have to prove his innocence,” he said. “If they have proof, then they must say, ‘This is the proof you are guilty.'”

Pope Benedict XVI is pictured during his final general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in this Feb. 27, 2013, file photo. The retired pope released a statement Feb. 8 concerning the recent report on abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, where he served as archbishop from 1977-1982. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – At the age of 94, retired Pope Benedict XVI said he knows he will soon stand before God’s judgment and he prayed that he would be forgiven for his shortcomings, including in handling allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

“Even though, as I look back on my long life, I can have great reason for fear and trembling, I am nonetheless of good cheer, for I trust firmly that the Lord is not only the just judge, but also the friend and brother who himself has already suffered for my shortcomings, and is thus also my advocate,” he said.

In response Feb. 8 to a recent report on sexual abuse cases in the German Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, Pope Benedict also confirmed that an error in the testimony written on his behalf had been an oversight and “was not intentionally willed and I hope may be excused.”

“To me it proved deeply hurtful that this oversight was used to cast doubt on my truthfulness, and even to label me a liar,” he said in a letter released Feb. 8 by the Vatican.

However, the retired pope, who headed the Munich Archdiocese from 1977 to 1982, emphasized his feelings of great shame and sorrow for the abuse of minors and made a request for forgiveness to all victims of sexual abuse.

“I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church. All the greater is my pain for the abuses and the errors that occurred in those different places during the time of my mandate,” Pope Benedict wrote.

“Each individual case of sexual abuse is appalling and irreparable,” he said. “The victims of sexual abuse have my deepest sympathy, and I feel great sorrow for each individual case.”

The letter comes after a German law firm released a report in late January on how abuse cases were handled in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

The report, compiled at the request of the archdiocese, incriminated retired Pope Benedict, with lawyers accusing him of misconduct in four cases during his tenure in Munich. Lawyer Martin Pusch of the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl said the retired pope had denied wrongdoing in all cases.

The Munich investigation followed two years of research and covered the period from 1945 to 2019, centering on who knew what about sexual abuse and when, and what action they took, if any. The report — made up of four volumes with almost 1,900 pages — identified at least 497 victims and 235 abusers.

Pope Benedict had submitted an 82-page written statement to the panel conducting the investigation, and, in it, the former pope had said he did not take part in a meeting in 1980 on the case of the repeat offender Peter H., who came to Munich from Essen.

The retired pope amended that statement after the report came out, saying he was present at the 1980 meeting, but the meeting focused only on finding housing for Peter H. while he underwent therapy; the priest’s abusive history was not discussed, he said.

That statement, issued Jan. 24 on Pope Benedict’s behalf by his secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, said the error of incorrectly stating the retired pope had not been at the meeting “was not done out of bad faith but was the result of an oversight in the editing of his statement.”

In his Feb. 8 response, the retired pope said there was a “small group of friends who selflessly compiled on my behalf my 82-page testimony for the Munich law firm, which I would have been unable to write by myself.”

“In addition to responding to the questions posed by the law firm, this also demanded reading and analyzing almost 8,000 pages of documents in digital format. These assistants then helped me to study and analyze the almost 2,000 pages of expert opinions,” he wrote, adding that those results were published as an appendix to his letter.

He said that during this “massive” amount of work in establishing his position, “an oversight occurred regarding my participation in the chancery meeting of 15 January 1980. This error, which regrettably was verified, was not intentionally willed and I hope may be excused.”

This error should not “detract from the care and diligence” with which his friends helped formulate his response, he said.

And while it was “deeply hurtful” for the oversight to have been used to cast doubt on him, Pope Benedict wrote, “I have been greatly moved by the varied expressions of trust, the heartfelt testimonies and the moving letters of encouragement sent to me by so many persons.”

He dedicated the rest of his two-page letter to the importance of “confession,” noting that each day at the beginning of Mass “we publicly implore the living God to forgive” the sins committed through “our fault, through our most grievous fault.”

“It is clear to me that the words ‘most grievous’ do not apply each day and to every person in the same way,” he wrote. “They tell me with consolation that, however great my fault may be today, the Lord forgives me, if I sincerely allow myself to be examined by him and am really prepared to change.”

He said that he has “come to understand that we ourselves are drawn into this grievous fault whenever we neglect it or fail to confront it with the necessary decisiveness and responsibility, as too often happened and continues to happen.”

“Once again I can only express to all the victims of sexual abuse my profound shame, my deep sorrow and my heartfelt request for forgiveness,” he said.

Together with the pope’s letter, the Vatican published an “analysis” of the Munich report’s assessment that then-Cardinal Ratzinger allegedly mishandled abuse allegations on four occasions when he led the German archdiocese. The analysis was compiled by a small team of canon lawyers and other experts who had helped craft the original 82-page response during the initial phase of the investigation.

This team’s response focused primarily on the case of “priest X,” the serial abuser also known as Peter H. It said the Munich report’s assessment did “not correspond to the truth” because the now-retired pontiff “was neither aware that priest X was an abuser, nor that he was included in pastoral activity.”

According to the Munich report, then-Cardinal Ratzinger “employed this priest in pastoral activity, even though he was aware of the abuses committed by him, and thus would have covered up his sexual abuses.”

However, records of the key 1980 meeting indicated that sexual abuse committed by the priest was not discussed, the team said, and the reason for accommodating priest X in Munich for therapy there “was not mentioned.”

Pope Benedict did not knowingly perjure himself, as the Munich report claimed, when he initially denied being present at the 1980 meeting, the team said.

It had been a “transcription error” and Pope Benedict “did not notice” it given the time constraints, it said. The minutes of the 1980 meeting were included in statements made by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, so it would make no sense “for him to intentionally deny his presence at the meeting.”

There is also no evidence behind the report’s “allegation of misconduct or conspiracy in any cover-up,” the team said. “As an archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger was not involved in any cover-up of acts of abuse.”