Cologne Archbishop offers resignation over abuse scandals


Central Europe


Photo AFP, Oliver Berg

Archbishop Rainer Woelki from Cologne has offered Pope Francis his resignation. Woelki had just returned from a period of “spiritual reflection” about the abuse scandal that has haunted him for years.

The Archdiocese of Cologne announced that the Pope would decide about his position in due time. First, the Pope instructed Woelki (65) to resume his service as Archbishop of Cologne as planned this Wednesday. Woelki has been heavily criticized for his handling of abuse scandals within the archdiocese.

In a letter to the faithful of the Archdiocese, Woelki wrote, among other things, about “the omissions, the mistakes and the guilt in my life”. He said to be sorry “that this is such a trying time for many in our church. It hurts me that I too am responsible for this situation,” the German broadcaster ZDF reports.

Woelki, therefore, made his “ministry and office as Archbishop of Cologne available to the Holy Father, so that he too is free to decide what is in the best interests of the Church of Cologne”.

Another chance

At the same time, Woelki asked believers to be given another chance. The Archbishop says that he will do everything in his power to ensure “that the merciful Lord give us a chance for a new beginning, on new paths and in a new spirit.” Woelki thanked the believers for their support and asked for “openness, patience and prayer.”For all of us on what is certainly not an easy path that now lies ahead of us.” This is reported by the Catholic German daily Die Tagespost.

Woelki claimed that a burnout was the reason for the five-month break he took in October: “In fact, last October I reached a level of physical and mental exhaustion that made a break necessary.” Woelki had taken the break after Pope Francis had blamed him for “big mistakes”, especially in his communication.

The Archbishop called on church members to be open and asked for a fresh start. “I would like to seek encounters with as many of you as possible in the coming weeks and months,” Woelki wrote.


Since the 1970s, more than 200 clergy from the Church have been accused of sexual abuse, resulting in at least 300 victims.

The Archbishop stopped a report on this in 2020. A second investigation was made public a year later. In it, pastors and several direct colleagues of the Archbishop were accused of serious negligence. Woelki himself is said to have made no demonstrable mistakes.

On Wednesday, demonstraters protested against Woelki's return on the Cologne Cathedral Square. The organisers spoke of 300 participants, the police of around 150. The demonstrators held signs with inscriptions such as "Go away from the cathedral, Woelki go to Rome". When word of the offer of resignation got around, cheers went through the crowd.



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