The former East Germany's secret police used a total of eight agents over the years to report on Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, the agency that oversees the Stasi's files said Monday.
Christian Booss, a spokesman for the agency, confirmed a report published Sunday by the Bild am Sonntag weekly that the Stasi spied on Ratzinger starting in 1974.
The spokesman added that, of the eight informers who reported on Ratzinger, the identity is known of only two _ a now-deceased Benedictine father and a one-time German religious journalist, the AP reports.
Bild am Sonntag printed excerpts of the files and said Benedict had personally granted it the right to reproduce the material. Vatican officials declined Sunday to comment on the report.
According to the excerpts, the East Germans regarded the Bavarian-born Ratzinger as "one of the strongest critics of communism in the Vatican." They feared he would "increasingly have influence over the anti-communist bias of the Roman Catholic Church, particularly in Latin America."
According to 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. AM