Stasi used eight agents to report on Pope

The former East Germany’s secret police used a total of eight agents over the years to report on Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, the agency that oversees the Stasi’s files said today.

Christian Booss, a spokesman for the agency, confirmed a report published yesterday by the Bild am Sonntag weekly that the Stasi spied on Ratzinger starting in 1974.

“The interest in Ratzinger was so great that an index file was built up with Ratzinger’s biography and an appraisal of his ecclesiastical policy,” Booss said.

The spokesman added that, of the eight informers who reported on Ratzinger, the identity is known of only two – a now-deceased Benedictine father and a one-time German religious journalist. He did not identify them.

Bild am Sonntag printed excerpts of the files and said Benedict had personally granted it the right to reproduce the material. Vatican officials declined to comment on the report.

According to the excerpts, the East Germans regarded the Bavarian-born Ratzinger as “one of the strongest critics of communism in the Vatican.”

They feared he would “increasingly have influence over the anti-communist bias of the Roman Catholic Church, particularly in Latin America.”

According to the report, Ratzinger was so closely followed that the Stasi was able to predict his being named prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the post he held before being named Pope – two years before it happened in 1981.

Ratzinger was a close friend of Polish-born Pope John Paul II, whom Poles today often credit with giving them the courage to challenge communism.

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