01 July 2010
By NICOLE WINFIELD (AP)
VATICAN CITY — The pope on Thursday told a German bishop who resigned amid accusations of physical abuse, sexual harassment and alcoholism that he must take time for silent prayer, treatment and reconciliation if he wants to return to pastoral work.
Pope Benedict XVI laid out the terms for Bishop Walter Mixa’s rehabilitation during a private audience with the 69-year-old prelate, during which Mixa again apologized for his mistakes, the Vatican said.
Benedict, for his part, “expressed the hope that his (Mixa’s) request for forgiveness finds open ears and hearts” among the German faithful, the Vatican said.
Mixa’s case marked an unusually public controversy that came to light at the height of the abuse scandal that rocked the church in Germany and elsewhere in the first half of the year.
Mixa, who served as bishop of the Augsburg diocese from 2005 to 2010, offered his resignation on April 22 after accusations surfaced that he had hit children decades ago as a priest and amid allegations of financial misconduct.
The pope accepted Mixa’s resignation on May 8, but last month the bishop said members of the Augsburg diocese and two German bishops had forced him to resign against his will, and that he had written to the pope seeking to rescind the resignation. Fresh allegations later surfaced in the German media, including that Mixa was an alcoholic and had made sexual advances toward two priests.
Eventually Mixa apologized for his conduct and agreed to stand by the resignation.
The Vatican had said Mixa’s resignation was never up for discussion and Benedict confirmed it definitively on Thursday. His title now is emeritus bishop of Augsburg.
In a statement, the Vatican press office said Mixa will take a period of time for silent reflection and prayer — as well as treatment and reconciliation. Afterward, he will be available for undetermined pastoral work in agreement with the new Augsburg bishop, the statement said.
During the audience, Mixa said he recognized that he had made mistakes “which caused a loss of trust and made his resignation inevitable.” He again asked forgiveness, but also asked that “all the good that he had done not be forgotten,” the Vatican said.
Benedict urged Mixa’s fellow bishops to understand and help him find the right path and for the faithful to welcome Mixa’s successor.