- The Washington Times - Monday, October 3, 2005

BERLIN (AP) — The East German secret service considered Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, one of the most dangerous critics of communism and spied on him starting in 1974, a leading weekly reported yesterday.

The Bild am Sonntag released excerpts of vast files showing that the communist secret police, or Stasi, closely watched Cardinal Ratzinger for years, collecting biographical details and information from spies.

Cardinal Ratzinger’s friendship with Polish-born Pope John Paul II — now widely credited with encouraging Poles to challenge communism — was viewed by the Stasi as particularly dangerous.

“Since the mid-70s, Ratzinger has been a close friend of the former Cardinal Wojtyla, for whose papacy he worked very hard and who tapped him in 1980 to organize the church’s support in West Germany for the counterrevolutionary developments in Poland,” according to one of the files, referring to protests against the communists by Poland’s Solidarity labor movement.

The East Germans feared that the Bavarian-born Cardinal Ratzinger, whom they regarded as “one of the strongest critics of communism in the Vatican,” would “increasingly have influence over the anti-communist bias of the Roman Catholic Church, particularly in Latin America,” according to excerpts printed by the paper.

Further excerpts showed the Stasi failed in its 1981 search of Nazi-era records to find any indication that Cardinal Ratzinger had been involved with the party.

“Documents on R. from the time before May 8, 1945, are not available,” according to the files, which refer to him by only his initial.

Bild am Sonntag said Pope Benedict personally had granted it the right to reproduce parts of the files. Vatican officials declined yesterday to comment on the report.

Cardinal 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.

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