German who says he was abused by priest seeks compensation from church in letter to pope

BERLIN (AP) — A German man who says a priest sexually abused him when he was an altar boy has sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI seeking what he calls "high" financial compensation from the church.

Wilfried Fesselmann told The Associated Press he is also demanding an apology from the pope and asking for a personal audience at the Vatican. Fesselmann said he sent the letter Tuesday.

He claimed an unspecified level of compensation, saying the abuse three decades ago traumatized him so badly that he couldn't work for several years.

"Damage was done to my life by the church; that's why I and all victims expect a high financial compensation by the church," he wrote in the letter, a copy of which was provided to the AP. Fesselmann did not give a figure.

"How much is the life and the soul of a victim worth?" Fesselmann asked in his letter.

Fesselmann stressed, however, that his quest was not only to win financial compensation. All victims and believers are waiting for an apology and a signal that the church is no longer covering up abuse cases but has turned to cleaning up its past, he wrote.

News of the case involving Fesselmann emerged amid a widening European abuse scandal in March had repercussions leading up to the Vatican and the pope himself.

The 41-year-old claims a chaplain, the Rev. Peter Hullermann, forced him to practice oral sex when he was an 11-year-old boy in the western city of Essen.

In 1980, then-Munich Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, who is now the pope, approved the priest's transfer to Munich, where he underwent therapy.

However, the man was quickly allowed to return to pastoral duties — a decision that the church says was made by a lower-ranking official without consulting the archbishop.

Hullermann later worked again with children and youth. In 1986, he was handed a suspended sentence for molesting a boy.

The case has contributed to questions over the pope's handling of pedophile priests during his time as an archbishop and later as a top Vatican official.

Hullermann continued to serve as a priest in Bavaria for three decades after the transfer from Essen. He was removed from his duties as pastor in the spa town of Bad Toelz only in March.