German Bishop Walter Mixa 'could return to work'

Bishop Walter Mixa (file image) Bishop Mixa resigned after accusations he hit children in his care

A German bishop who resigned after claims he hit children could be allowed to return to work, it has emerged.

Pope Benedict XVI told Bishop Walter Mixa of Augsburg that he must take time off for treatment and reconciliation if he wanted to return to pastoral work.

He had been accused of financial misconduct as well as physically abusing children in his care.

The case has caused controversy in Germany amid the sexual scandals which have hit the Catholic Church recently.

The Pope received the bishop in private audience at the Vatican during which - according to a Vatican statement - the bishop admitted he had made mistakes, but asked that the good he had done as a pastor not be forgotten.

Zero-tolerance

Bishop Mixa appears to have received much more lenient treatment from the Pope than has been proposed by church authorities in many other countries.

In the United States, Britain, Ireland and Belgium a zero tolerance policy is now being applied in all cases of sexual misconduct by clergy.

Bishop Mixa admitted he hit children as a priest decades ago and submitted his resignation last April.

It is clear from Thursday's Vatican statement that he is going to be allowed to return to pastoral work, retaining his rank, after a period of medical treatment and prayer.

At one point the bishop tried to cancel his resignation but fresh allegations were made in the press of sexual misconduct and alcoholism, and a successor has now been appointed.

Critics of the way in which the Vatican continues to handle sexual scandals caused by Roman Catholic clergy will argue that the same standards of zero tolerance are not being universally applied.

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