The secret service of the former East Germany had numerous unofficial agents assigned to follow Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, a German radio station reported Sunday.
According to Mitteldeutsche Rundfunk Thüringen (MDR), the “Stasi” were interested in the activities of Professor Ratzinger as far back as 1974 when he made a visit to Thüringen, a federal state in what used to be communist East Germany.
At the time, the spying agency didn't have a suitable informant, the report said, but with Father Ratzinger growing in importance in the Catholic Church, the foreign section of the homeland security service decided to assign “at least a dozen unofficial employees” to track him and file reports on his whereabouts.
These included two East German university professors and two general secretaries from the East Berlin Conference of Bishops, the report revealed. In West Germany, a Benedictine monk from Trier and several journalists were enlisted to inform on the future Pontiff.
Joseph Ratzinger was viewed as a rising star in the Church after serving as a peritus (theological consultant) to Cardinal Frings of Cologne during the Second Vatican Council between 1962 and 1965.
A year later, he was appointed to a chair in dogmatic theology at the University of Tübingen and then lectured at the University of Regensburg from 1969. He was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977 before Pope John Paul II summoned him to the Vatican to serve as the Church's doctrinal chief in 1981.
The MDR reported that “several hundred pages” of information on Joseph Ratzinger have been found in the East German Ministry for State Security. But it said among the files related to spying on Ratzinger, there was “little that was meaningful” and individual reports had been “almost completely deleted”.
The documents that were kept related only to “index cards with basic information about the author and the occasion of when the information was gathered,” the report said.
News of the spying activities come just a few days before Benedict XVI makes a state visit to Germany which will include a trip to Erfurt, the state capital of Thüringen. The Sept. 22-25 visit will also include visits to the nation's capital Berlin, and Freiburg im Breisgau, near the German-Swiss border.
Benedict XVI's predecessor, Blessed Pope John Paul II, was heavily spied upon by the KGB and the SB (Poland's secret police). According to recent research detailed in papal biographer George Weigel's book “The End and the Beginning,” the agencies began taking a keen interest in his activities after he was made auxiliary bishop of Krakow in 1958.
They grew increasingly frustrated as he rose up the ranks of the Church, becoming Pope in 1978 and hastening the demise of Soviet Communism.
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