No one wants to be the heir of Benedict XVI. At least, that’s how it seems. When the former pope died on December 31 last year at the age of 95, his private secretary, Monsignor Georg Ganswein, was given the task of settling the estate. But he found heirs not responding to his requests for contact or saying they weren’t interested, possibly fearing the outcome of a lawsuit against the former pope.
Since Benedict did not specify any personal heirs in his will, Gänswein began searching for his next of kin. found five. They are, most likely, Benedict’s old cousins. According to German and American media, four of them have not yet responded to Gänswein’s contact requests and a relative has indicated through her daughter that she is not interested.
Exactly what the legacy entails is shrouded in mystery. The German theologian Joseph Ratzinger, as he was actually called, worked as a professor at a university in his younger years. As archbishop and cardinal he received an income not exceptionally high, but still comfortable. He wrote many books, including during the papacy, many of which sold well.
But Ganswein makes it clear that the resulting royalties are not part of his estate. Any amount of money in his bank account. Gänswein doesn’t want to reveal exactly how much.
Cover up the abuse
The reason for the heirs’ unresponsiveness or outright refusal to inherit is likely related to the risk that they will be required to pay damages in a court action involving Benedict XVI. A 39-year-old man accuses Joseph Ratzinger of covering up abuse of a priest in the 1980s.
Suspected of ill-treatment, this priest was transferred to the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising when Ratzinger was Archbishop there. He received some treatment and then was allowed to return to work. Until 2010 he was able to continue to commit sexual assault. He is not removed from the priesthood until 2022.
In early 2022, an independent research report was published in Germany by a law firm on sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. In it, Joseph Ratzinger is accused of covering up abuse in four cases, including that of this pastor.
The Pope Emeritus denied by letter that he had been present at the meeting in question in 1980, when it was decided to accept the priest in question from another diocese. However, the minutes soon appeared, which showed that Ratzinger had indeed attended the meeting.
According to many, this is an example of how abuse was not dealt with within the Catholic Church in those years, but was treated with treatment as if it were a passing phenomenon. It was a systematic denial and cover-up of the seriousness of the abuses to protect the reputation of the Roman Catholic Church.
Work without heirs?
The man who is now suing says he was the victim of a priest who committed the abuse in the 1990s. He is suing the archdiocese, the priest and two former archbishops. He wants 300,000 euros from the diocese and 50,000 euros from the heirs of Benedict XVI.
Whether the case against the former pope would stand without heirs had to be decided by the judge. Today is the first hearing in the Bavarian city court of Traunstein. Last night, the court announced that only cases against the archdiocese, the priest and another former archbishop are under consideration there. The lawsuit against Benedict has been temporarily suspended because there are no heirs.
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