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Pope ‘understands’ criticism of his handling of abuse crisis, says author

Pope Benedict XVI “understands” the criticism that he did “too little, too late” in response to the clerical abuse crisis, according to the author of a new book about the Pontiff.

The author, Peter Seewald, a German journalist, was recently granted a series of interviews with Pope Benedict which will form the basis of his next book Licht der Welt, or Light of the World. The book, which is being written in German, will be released on November 24 in 10 languages.

He told Reuters at the Frankfurt Book Fair: “The Pope seemed very understanding of the criticism that he did too little, too late about the sex scandals, but the book certainly sheds new light on the whole issue and debate.”

But Mr Seewald said it was unlikely that victims of abuse will find anything revelatory in his book. He said: “For victims of the sex scandals in the Church, I do not think this book will shed light on many issues, and may be consoling to an extent. Of course, it won’t undo things that have been done and it’s no way of excusing what has happened.”

Mr Seewald, who had already written two interview books on the Pope while he was still a cardinal – Salt of the Earth in 1996 and God and the World in 2000 – was recently allowed one hour every day for a week with Pope Benedict at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence.

The author, who said his book will “go down in history”, pointed out that his book is likely to discomfort some people. “I believe many people will be shocked at the way Benedict XVI is portrayed in the book. Many people may not like it and many people may not believe it,” he said.

About the Pope, Mr Seewald said: “He’s not a lone ruler and has not got the hard shell many people think he does. He’s a servant, not necessarily a knight or a ruler.”

“He still has so much energy and life. He is so disciplined. His secret recipe for this, he says, is to live each day only with the pressures of that day and not worrying about tomorrow or yesterday.”