Vatican City — A U.S. judge in Texas dismissed Pope Benedict XVI from a civil lawsuit accusing him of conspiracy to cover up the sexual abuse of minors by a seminarian, ruling Thursday that the pontiff has immunity as a head of state.
U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal cited a motion filed by the Justice Department, known as a "Suggestion of Immunity," in which the government said allowing the lawsuit to proceed would be "incompatible with the United States' foreign policy interests."
"After a suggestion of immunity is filed, it is the court's duty to surrender jurisdiction," Rosenthal wrote.
Joseph Ratzinger - Benedict's former name - is named as a defendant in the civil lawsuit, accused of conspiring with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and some of its officials to cover up the abuse of three boys during the mid-1990s. The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages.
Attorneys for one of the alleged victims argued in the lawsuit that a May 18, 2001, letter Ratzinger wrote to bishops around the world was evidence that he was involved in a conspiracy to hide crimes and to help him escape prosecution.