Pope Francis has ordered an investigation into the treatment of sexual assault cases in the diocese of Cologne. This is what the diocese has announced, which has been in crisis for months.
Francis appointed two “apostolic visitors” – special envoys – “to understand the complex pastoral situation in the diocese while studying possible errors” of the Archbishop, Cardinal Rainer Maria Walkie, and other bishops of the diocese. The Pope takes such action when he finds that the diocese is no longer able to solve the problems internally.
The two envoys are Bishop of Stockholm, Cardinal Anders Apurelius, and Bishop of Rotterdam, Johannes Van den Hend. They will begin their research in the first weeks of June.
Francis’ intervention comes after constant criticism of the conservative Cardinal and Wilkie. He is accused, in particular, of holding two priests accused of sexual assault in Düsseldorf and of hiding the case for a long time. One of the priests has since died. Falkey’s intent to personally manage the assurance of 17 young men in the concerned parish added fuel to the fire.
Walkie was also severely criticized last year when he refused to disclose a report of sexual abuse in his diocese, which he himself had ordered, for privacy reasons. This decision sparked anger and misunderstanding, not only among the victims, but also among colleagues in the Catholic Church.
The Cardinal ordered a second report finally published in March. This would show that a total of 314 children up to the age of 14 were subjected to sexual abuse in the archdiocese between 1975 and 2018. In most cases, a cleric was the perpetrator.
Several bishops suspected of covering up abuse or acts of neglect have already been arrested. The report’s authors did not disclose any mistakes Wilkie made.
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