German Cardinal Woelki submits his resignation to Pope Francis for the second time

Jasjot Singh

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki has submitted his resignation for the second time to Pope Francis as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Cologne (Germany).

The Archdiocese of Cologne announced the presentation of the Cardinal’s resignation today, March 2, Ash Wednesday, the day he returned to lead the Archdiocese after a period of “prayer and reflection,” reported CNA Deutsch, the German-language agency of the ACI Group. .

The Archdiocese of Cologne, the largest in Germany and also the richest, said the Pope had instructed the 65-year-old Prelate to resume his ministry, pending a decision on his resignation.

Cardinal Woelki began his sabbatical year at the end of September 2021 “at his own request,” after being confirmed in office by Pope Francis, who had ordered an apostolic visit amid serious criticism of the Archdiocese’s handling of cases of sexual abuse.

In a Lenten pastoral letter published Wednesday, Cardinal Woelki said: “Certainly I realize that the situation has not gotten any easier since October last year. A time of waiting in itself does not solve any problem.”

Any reconciliation “could only be concretely contemplated, attempted and carried out in cooperation,” not taking time away from each other, the Cardinal added.

In January 2019, the Archdiocese of Cologne commissioned the law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl to examine the relevant personnel files from 1975 to determine “what personal, systemic or structural deficits they had been responsible for in the past in relation to incidents of sexual abuse that were covered up or not consistently punished.

After lawyers advising the Archdiocese raised concerns about “methodological shortcomings” in the study, Cardinal Woelki commissioned Professor Björn Gercke, a Cologne-based criminal law expert, to write a report.

The 800-page Gercke Report was published in March 2021. It covered the period from 1975 to 2018 and examined 236 files in detail with the aim of identifying failures and violations of the law, as well as those responsible for them.

After the apostolic visit, the Vatican said on September 24, 2021, that the Pope had asked the Cardinal to continue leading the German Archdiocese after a period of leave.

He explained that an investigation had found no evidence that Cardinal Woelki had acted illegally in relation to cases of abuse.

“However, Cardinal Woelki made big mistakes in his approach to the issue of accepting abuse in general, especially at the level of communication,” he said.

“This has significantly contributed to a crisis of confidence in the Archdiocese that has unsettled many of the faithful.”

The Holy See noted that the Pope and Cardinal Woelki had “a long conversation” in September 2021.

“The Holy Father is counting on Cardinal Woelki, recognizing his loyalty to the Holy See and his concern for the unity of the Church,” he said.

“At the same time, it is obvious that the Archbishop and the Archdiocese need a time of pause, renewal and reconciliation. This has prompted Pope Francis to grant Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, at his own request, a period of spiritual leave, from mid-October to the beginning of Lent next year.”

Cardinal Woelki is not the only German archbishop who has offered to resign.

Translated and adapted by Blanca Ruiz. Originally posted on CNA.

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