October 02, 2005

East Germany spied on Pope Benedict for 15 years

BERLIN (Reuters) - Communist East Germany's security police kept close tabs on the West German theologian who later became Pope Benedict for 15 years before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, a German newspaper reported on Sunday.

Bild am Sonntag said the East German state security police and its foreign espionage arm spied on Joseph Ratzinger between 1974 and 1989, identifying him as one of the Vatican's staunchest opponents of communism.

Ratzinger become Pope Benedict earlier this year.

Pope Benedict XVI holds the hosts golden goblet as he leads a solemn mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican for the opening of the synod of the bishops October 2, 2005. (REUTERS/Max Rossi)
The newspaper said the German agency in Berlin that holds custody of the Stasi files had allowed it to publish excerpts after receiving permission directly from Pope Benedict.

The Stasi agents operating in Western European were trying to find incriminating evidence from Ratzinger's past that could be used against him but were unsuccessful. They also filed reports of Ratzinger's visits to East Germany.

Ratzinger had been drafted into the German army as a teenager shortly before the Third Reich collapsed and was involved in the Hitler Youth.

The newspaper said at least eight agents were tracking Ratzinger, although the identities of only two of the spies is known. Ratzinger was born in the Bavarian town of Marktl am Inn in 1927.

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