Bishop Emeritus of Augsburg, Walter Mixa spoke privately with Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday about the situation surrounding his removal from the episcopate nearly two months ago. A note released about the meeting illustrates a "truly beautiful example" from the Pope on how to address problems within the Church.
Pope Benedict XVI accepted Bishop Mixa's resignation just a matter of weeks after he submitted his papers on April 22. He resigned after reports surfaced that he had slapped orphans in the 1980s and misused Church funds destined for the orphanage.
According to a statement from the Holy See's Press Office recognizing Thursday's meeting with the Pope, Bishop Mixa stressed during the audience that he had always attempted to carry out his ministry "well and conscientiously."
"But in all sincerity and humility," continues the Vatican communique, "he also confirmed the recognition of having committed mistakes and errors, that caused a loss of faith and made his resignation inevitable."
Bishop Mixa went on to ask forgiveness for "all of his mistakes," while also asking that his good deeds be remembered.
According to the statement, Pope Benedict "hoped that the request would find open ears and hearts."
The Holy Father also looked for reconciliation to follow the open controversy which surrounded the bishop's final months in the episcopate and continued after his resignation was accepted. The most recent wrinkle in the bishop's case came out in an interview with the German publication Die Welt in which the bishop said that he was forced to resign by his brother bishops.
According to the Vatican communique, the decision to accept Bishop Mixa's resignation was "definitively confirmed" during the audience and the bishop emeritus will retreat from the public sphere for time of prayer, concentration and silence. The statement also added, that after a period of treatment and reconciliation, Bishop Mixa would be able to take up pastoral work again as his not yet named successor sees fit.
The note highlighted the Holy Father's hope for a renewed spirit of mercy and a confident abandonment to the Lord's guidance, his wishes for fellow bishops' closeness, comprehension and assistance and his wishes for the faithful of the German diocese to welcome a successor "with open hearts."
For the Pope, continued the statement, "In a time of contrasts and uncertainties, the world expects from Christians the harmonious witness that they, based on their encounter with the risen Lord, are able to offer and in which they help each other as also in all of society to find the right way towards the future."
Commenting on the statement, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said, "I must say, it's a communique of great beauty and spiritual depth.
"It demonstrates how the Pope carries out his ministry with great spiritual density ... he truly helps the Church to find the correct path to go forward in a way always in communion and on a path of continuous reconciliation."
A statement like this, he said, illustrates "a good path for the Church in today's situation and a truly beautiful example that the Pope gives us of how to confront problems of situations of tension and also of difficulty."