Former Pope, Benedict XVI.
Credit: Alberto Pizzoli

Former Pope Benedict XVI has denied playing a role in covering up the sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests. It is his first public comment on the scandal since resigning in February.

The comments were made in a letter to math professor Piergiorgio Odifreddi, author of a book about the Pope, and were published in La Repubblica newspaper.

Victims groups have accused Benedict of not taking personal responsibility for the cover-up and have argued he knew about the abuse.

"In the Church's entire history, no one knew more but did less to protect kids than Benedict," the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said in statement.

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"I never tried to cover up these things," Benedict wrote. "That the power of evil penetrates to such a point in the interior world of the faith is, for us, a source of suffering... We must do everything possible so that such cases aren't repeated."

He added, "in any event, one must not stubbornly present this deviance as if it were a nastiness specific to Catholicism."

Odifreddi responded he appreciated the letter's tone and while they often disagree, both continue to "search for the truth, with a capital 'T'."

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