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Report: East German Communist Secret Police Spied on Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict

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Report: East German secret service spied on Pope

October 2, 2005

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

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

Ratzinger's close friendship with Polish-born former pope John Paul - who Poles today largely credit with giving them the courage 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 revolutionary developments in Poland," read one of the files, referring to Solidarity protests against the communists.

The East Germans feared Ratzinger 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.

Bild am Sonntag said Benedict had personally granted it the right to reproduce parts of the files.

The Vatican press office declined Sunday to comment on 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.

In addition, one agent noted something about the Ratzinger's personality that has been revealed to the public since he became pope: "He has a certain charm, although he may seem somewhat shy initially."

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