Pope orders a visit to the Archdiocese of Cologne


Central Europe


photo AFP, Oliver Berg

Pope Francis has ordered an apostolic visit to the Archdiocese of Cologne to clarify the handling of sexual abuse. Cologne’s Cardinal Woelki welcomes the decision and promises to support the work, writes German newspaper Die Tagespost.

The Apostolic Nunciature in Germany and the Archdiocese of Cologne announced the visitation on Friday. Accordingly, the Pope appointed the Swedish Cardinal Anders Arborelius, Bishop of Stockholm, and the chairman of the Dutch Bishops’ Conference and Bishop of Rotterdam, Johannes von den Hende, as Apostolic Visitators.

“During the first half of June, the Holy Chair’s envoys will visit the archdiocese to get a comprehensive picture of the complex pastoral situation in the archdiocese,” the bishop's office said in a written statement. At the same time, the visitation will investigate possible mistakes made by the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, and the Archbishop of Hamburg Stefan Hesse. According to the nunciature, the auxiliary bishops Dominikus Schwaderlapp and Ansgar Puff’s handling with the clarification of cases of abuse is to be investigated.

In March, a German law firm published an independent report following accusations of efforts to cover up sexual violence in Germany’s most powerful Roman Catholic diocese.

The report identified around 243 abusers of minors (priests or other people working for the church) and at least 386 victims. The events occurred between 1946 and 2018, although not all of them fall under the jurisdiction of the Cologne diocese. In 55 per cent of the cases, the victims were children under the age of 14. Around half of the cases dealt with sexual violence, the rest with verbal or other physical abuse.

Cardinal Woelki welcomed the visitation: “I welcome the fact that the Pope wants to use the Apostolic Visit to get his picture of the situation and the consequences of it,” said Woelki. He will support Cardinal Arborelius and Bishop van den Hende “with full conviction” in their work. “I welcome everything that serves the consistent processing.”

In addition, Woelki pointed out that he had already informed the Pope “comprehensively about the situation in our archdiocese” in February.



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