Anger of Roman Catholics in Germany after Vatican investigation clears Archbishop of allegations

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Many Roman Catholics in Germany were angry last Friday when the Pope decided to send the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, on a six-month “spiritual sabbatical”.

A Vatican investigation revealed that Cardinal Woelki had done nothing illegal in his handling of allegations of sexual abuse against the clergy in his diocese.

The pope’s decision follows a week in which lay organizations in RC and the advisory councils of victims of sexual abuse protested against what they see as the slow pace of reform. They protested and set up information booths in front of Fulda Palace where the 27 German Bishops of the RC were holding their annual fall meeting.

The We Are Church organization said that the Vatican’s decision “will not help resolve the complex situation of the Cologne conflict, but on the contrary will lead to further aggravation and prolongation. With this decision by Rome, the urgent process of reconciliation and renewal will be prevented. “

The Vatican’s decision also appears to have aroused disapproval from groups traditionally closer to the official RC Church.

The Association of Catholic Women of Germany posted on Twitter: “With great astonishment, we note that Pope Francis has granted the request of Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of the Diocese of Cologne to take a spiritual sabbatical. There has already been enough time to think it over! The organization is the largest RC women’s federation and one of the largest women’s organizations in Germany: it has around 400,000 members.

The chairman of the Central Committee of German Catholics, Dr Thomas Sternberg, issued a statement on Friday in which he said: “I cannot understand the Vatican’s decision to keep Cardinal Woelki in office. . . The instrument of a period of sabbatical leave is not enough. It is not at all clear what the end of such a sabbatical might be, and it is not suited to restore lost confidence.

LATER this week, Dr Sternberg will co-chair the second Synodal Path Assembly, along with the President of the German Bishops’ Conference, the Bishop of Limburg, Dr Georg Bätzing.

The reform project, which was launched in January 2020, will meet in Frankfurt, where the assembly of 230 members will discuss and vote on 16 entry documents.

Aware of the strong feelings, Dr Bätzing on Monday evening used his speech at the annual St. Michael’s reception for politicians in Berlin to call for courageous change in Church and society.

In the presence of religious leaders and politicians, including, for the last time, Chancellor Angela Merkel, he declared: the people. “

He spoke of a “turning point” and a “creeping loss of relevance” for the RC Church, and criticized the Vatican’s position on the denial of blessings for same-sex couples, and the way it has treated the German bishops involved in sexual cover-up. abuse in their dioceses.

“While, for example, complete reforms and changes are required as part of the Synodal Path,” he said, “there are words of warning or clarification from the Roman Curia on matters which are considered to have long been resolved in our enlightened mind and freedom-loving society, and thus increase the difficulty for many faithful and priests to plead their cause.


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