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Pope's brother "didn't know of school's brutality"
BERLIN (Reuters) - The priest brother of Pope Benedict acknowledged on Tuesday that he had meted out corporal punishment when he taught at a German school, but said he had not known about a regime of more extreme violence now being alleged.
Reports of abuses have surfaced at three Roman Catholic schools in the conservative southern state of Bavaria including the Regensburg cathedral school where Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, now 86, was choirmaster from 1964 to 1994.
Corporal punishment was legal in Germany until 1980, but former pupils of the school have said they suffered sexual abuse and violent beatings and humiliation in the early 1960s by unnamed teachers.
Ratzinger told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper that he, like the headmaster, had slapped pupils to punish them.
But Ratzinger had not believed pupils who spoke of more violent beatings.
"Pupils told me on concert trips about what went on. But it didn't dawn on me from their stories that I should do something. I wasn't aware of the extent of these brutal methods," he said.
"If I had known about the excess of force he (the headmaster) was using, I would have said something ... I ask the victims for forgiveness."
The Regensburger Domspatzen, or Regensburg Cathedral Sparrows, are one of Germany's most renowned boys' choirs.
Ratzinger said the physical punishment he dispensed had not been abusive, and that his colleagues had never mentioned sexual abuse. But he said he was glad when corporal punishment was banned.
The Regensburg diocese has said one of its priests abused two boys sexually in 1958 and was sentenced to two years in jail. Another clergyman served 11 months in jail in 1971 for abuse.
Benedict, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, taught theology at Regensburg University from 1969 to 1977.
Reports last month said Catholic priests had sexually abused over 100 children at Jesuit-run schools around Germany. Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, head of the German Bishops' Conference, has issued a public apology and is due to travel to the Vatican on Friday to discuss the scandal.
Last month, Pope Benedict summoned Irish bishops to the Vatican for a scolding over a paedophilia scandal in which a government report said Church leaders had covered up widespread abuse of children by priests for 30 years.
And on Tuesday the Dutch Roman Catholic Church said it was asking an independent commission to look into reports from more than 200 Catholics who have come forward to report alleged sexual abuses by priests, often decades ago.
In Austria, the archabbott of St. Peter's Monastery in Salzburg, Bruno Becker, 64, offered to resign on Monday after confessing to abusing a boy 40 years ago, when he was a monk.
The victim, who is now 53, said Becker had abused him in a grotto during a bicycle trip. He also accuses two other Benedictine monks of having abused him sexually decades ago.
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