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Pope orders apostolic visitation for Archdiocese of Cologne

Pope Francis orders an apostolic visitation of the Archdiocese of Cologne, in Germany, to examine the pastoral situation and the handling of sexual abuse cases.

By Isabella Piro

Initiating an apostolic visitation of Germany’s Archdiocese of Cologne, Pope Francis has entrusted the task to Cardinal Anders Aborelius, the Bishop of Stockholm, and Bishop Johannes van den Hende of Rotterdam, president of the Dutch Bishops' Conference.

The apostolic visitors will seek to understand the Archdiocese’s handling of sexual abuse cases.

A letter from the Apostolic Nunciature in Berlin says the visitation will take place during the first half of the month of June.

“The Holy See's envoys will gain an overall picture of the Archdiocese’s complex pastoral situation and at the same time examine any errors committed by Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, as well as by the Archbishop of Hamburg, Archbishop Stefan Heße, and the auxiliaries (of Cologne), Bishops Dominikus Schwaderlapp and Ansgar Puff, regarding cases of sexual abuse.”

Already on 18 March, a report was released entitled: “Independent Report on Combating Sexual Abuse in the Archdiocese of Cologne." It was commissioned in October 2020 by Cardinal Woelki, and was the result of an investigation conducted by the law firm Gercke & Wollschläger.

The document, more than 800 pages in length, covers the period from 1975 to 2018 with the goal of identifying any legal missteps or violations, as well as those responsible.

Specifically, the Report refers to 314 victims of sexual abuse, all but one of them minors, and 202 aggressors, nearly two-thirds of whom are clergy.

In a note released Friday on the archdiocesan website, Cardinal Woelki welcomed the apostolic visitation.

“I welcome the fact that with the apostolic visitation the Pope wants to get a personal picture of the independent investigation and its consequences,” he said. “I will support Cardinal Arborelius and Bishop van den Hende in their work with full conviction. I welcome everything that serves an objective investigation.”

28 May 2021, 16:10