Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI wrote a letter in retort to a well-known Italian athiest where he discussed the child abuse allegations facing the Vatican, which has now been published in excerpts. La Repubblica published pieces of the work in Tuesday's edition of the newspaper, also showcasing the former pope's words on evolution and the image of Jesus Christ itself. The letter was intended for Piergiorgio Odifreddi who wrote a book in critique of Benedict's "Introduction to Christianity," which he titled "Dear Pope, I'm Writing To You." La Repubblica also printed a letter from the current Pope Francis that discussed similar ideas that he wrote to the newspaper's athiest publisher just two weeks ago. Benedict said in the letter that he never covered up for priests guilty of sexual abuse.
Odifreddi's book presents arguments about the Catholic church's sex scandals, which saw a resurgence of publicity in 2010 when Benedict still served as pope. Once Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict was in charge of the board responsible for overseeing sexual abuse allegations. In 2010, thousands of people worldwide came forward and alleged that they had been sexually abused by priests while the Vatican sat idly, refusing to act. Benedict fired back at these accusations in the letter. "I never tried to cover these things up," he wrote. "That the power of evil penetrated so far into the interior world of the faith is a suffering that we must bear, but at the same time we must do everything to prevent it from repeating."
This is the first time Benedict has come out in defense of himself since the allegations resurfaced. The Vatican has long insisted that Benedict worked tirelessly and more so than other pope's to combat abuses in the church. Benedict was the first pope in 600 years to retire, with Pope Francis coming to the potificancy Feb. 28. He has since lived in self-imposed silence in a monestary behind St. Peter's Basilica, dedicating his final years to reading and prayer. Though quiet by nature, he said his decision ultimately secured the fact that he wanted the world to know that his successor was now in charge and that he was no longer pope. He has made few public appearances since then, one of his most recent being in July.
Benedict chided Odifreddi's logic in the book, in particular his "religion of mathematics" that he asserted was empty and lacked explanations for fundemental themes in human life. Odifreddi was stunned to receive the letter, stating that he hoped Pope Benedict would read his book and possibly respond. He published his own response to the letter in Tuesday's La Repubblica. He said he plans to reissue his book with the copy of the former pope's letter included after obtaining permission from Benedict to do so. He called the brief exchange "an unprecedented dialogue between a theologian pope and an atheist mathematician, divided in most everything but drawn together by at least one objective: the search for Truth."