The head of the Catholic Church in Germany, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has offered his resignation from his position as Archbishop to the Pope, saying he had to share responsibility for the “catastrophe” of sexual abuse by clerics over past decades.
His offer, which has yet to be accepted by the Pope, comes amid a growing uproar among the German faithful over abuse. Last week, the Pope sent two senior foreign bishops to investigate the Archdiocese of Cologne, Germany’s largest, over its handling of abuse cases.
“I have to share responsibility for the catastrophe of sexual abuse by officials of the Church over past decades,” Marx wrote, who is Archbishop of Munich, adding that he hoped his departure would create space for a new beginning.
Marx, who is Archbishop of Munich, said in a statement on his archdiocese’s website that the Pope had instructed him to remain in office until he had decided whether to accept the resignation.
Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki has been criticised for his handling of historic child sex abuse allegations, in particular for his decision to shelve a report into earlier wrongdoings by priests because of unspecified methodological shortcomings.
An 800-page follow-up report into the handling of abuse cases in the Cologne archdiocese between 1975 and 2018 found more than 200 abusers and more than 300 victims mostly under the age of 14.
“Pope Francis has ordered an Apostolic Visitation to the Archdiocese of Cologne,” Nikola Eterovic, the Papal Nuncio to Germany, said in a statement.
“The Holy See’s delegates will form a comprehensive picture of the complex pastoral situation in the Archbishopric and consider any possible failings by Cardinal Woelki and his excellency Stefan Hesse, Archbishop of Hamburg,” he added.
Cologne, by some measures the world’s richest diocese – with a bigger income than the Vatican itself – is at the centre of a crisis in the German Catholic Church, with thousands quitting the Church in protest at its handling of abuse cases and at its refusal to bless same-sex relationships.
Woelki welcomed the decision to send the inspectors – Anders Cardinal Arborelius, the Bishop of Stockholm, and Johannes van der Hende, Bishop of Rotterdam.
“I am glad that the Pope wants to form his own picture of our independent inquiry and its consequences,” Woelki said in a statement. “I will support Cardinal Arborelius and Bishop van den Hende in their work.”
Centred on the renowned Cologne Cathedral, the tallest twin-spired church in the world, the Rhineland diocese is home to Germany’s largest community of Roman Catholics.
Photo: (FILE) – German Cardinal Reinhard Marx. EPA-EFE/ARMANDO BABANI