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Benedict XVI, the pope emeritus, defrocked hundreds of priests for child sexual abuse over the course of two years towards the end of his pontificate, the Vatican has confirmed.
In 2011 Benedict defrocked around 300 men and a further 100 in 2012.
The figure is more than double the number removed in 2008 and 2009, when 171 priests were defrocked, the first time that the Vatican disclosed the statistics.
The figures were reported by the news agency AP, which reviewed the Vatican’s annual reports.
Last week a UN committee interrogated a Vatican delegation about the Holy See’s record on child abuse.
Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said that some priests were defrocked as a result of disciplinary procedures while others had requested dispensations from the priesthood.
AP also reported that there had been improvements in the Vatican’s in-house procedures to deal with abusers. As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), then-Cardinal Ratzinger pushed through reforms that meant that the CDF intervened to review each case and instructed bishops how to proceed, with the aim of preventing bishops from moving abusers from parish to parish.
Pope Benedict XVI waves during final public appearance at Castel Gandolfo (CNS/Paul Haring)