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Pope Benedict XVI knew of violent priests when he led the Archdiocese of Munich, investigators say

"He was informed of the facts," said lawyer Martin Pusch as law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl announced the results of a decade-long investigation into historic sexual abuse at the Archdiocese of Munich. The report was commissioned by the church itself.

"We believe he could be charged with misdemeanor in four cases," Pusch said. "Two of these cases relate to assaults committed during his tenure and sanctioned by the state. In both cases, the perpetrators remained active in pastoral care."

Benedict continues to deny the allegations, the company said Thursday. But the results are a judgmental verdict on the former pope, then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who follows years of speculation about how much he knew.

He has repeatedly denied allegations that he deliberately covered up abuse, including in 2013, when he wrote: "I can only, as you know, admit it with deep dismay. But I have never tried to cover up these things." CNN is contacting Benedict's longtime secretary for response to Thursday's report.

Benedict's position was rejected by lawyers at their long-awaited press conference in Munich.

The top official of the German Catholic Church offers resignation due to 'disaster of sexual abuse'

"During his time in office, abuse cases occurred," Pusch said, referring to Benedict. "In those cases, the priests continued their work without sanctions. The church did nothing.

"He claims he did not know certain facts, even though we believe that is not the case, according to what we know," Pusch said.

Benedict, now 94, became the first pope in centuries to step down when he stepped down in 2013. His tenure was overshadowed by a global scandal over sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, and the investigators' findings - which now directly implicate him in a failure to prevent and punish abuse - threatens to destroy the former pope's reputation.

Attorney Ulrich Wastl presented a copy of the minutes of a meeting with church leaders in Munich on January 15, 1980, when a decision was made to hire an addict, whom the report refers to as "Priest X."

Wastl said he was "surprised" that Benedict denied he was at the meeting, despite the minutes showing he was. "This is something that has been written down," Wastl said, later dismissing Benedict's denial as "hardly credible."

Wastl said Benedict had made a statement to the inquiry but gave it little credence, summing up Benedict's position as: "You have proof that a particular document was submitted, but you do not have proof that I have read it. "

This is a breaking story. More details soon.


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