Catholic Church: Witness: Woelki was informed of the allegations early on

Catholic Church
Witness: Woelki was informed of the allegations early on

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki has submitted a resignation to Pope Francis. The head of the church has not yet decided whether to accept the request. photo

© Sebastian Gollnow/dpa

Cardinal Woelki from Cologne is still under great pressure. The public prosecutor is investigating against him. In a media law process, a witness statement about a telephone call is causing a stir.

A witness testified in a lawsuit brought by Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki against the Axel Springer publishing house and a “Bild” reporter. The former secretary of Woelki’s predecessor, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, said before the Cologne district court that she had informed Woelki at an early stage about events surrounding a controversial Düsseldorf pastor.

The process is about reporting on a priest whom Woelki promoted to deputy city dean of Düsseldorf in 2017. The cardinal accuses the “Bild” newspaper of having falsely reported that he knew the pastor’s personal file when he was appointed and knew that the police had warned him. The priest had had sex with a 16-year-old prostitute years earlier. A Springer spokesman said they believe the reporting is legal.

The witness said in court that she did not know the personal file and the letter from the police to the archdiocese and therefore did not discuss it with Woelki. However, before 2011 she had spoken to the then auxiliary bishop Woelki in a 20-minute telephone call about the Düsseldorf pastor, with whom she had previously been friends. Among other things, she told Woelki about the pastor’s homosexual tendencies and suggestive behavior towards young people. Among other things, he went into the sauna with altar boys, reported the 72-year-old.

During the questioning of witnesses, it turned out that Woelki’s lawyer had called the woman before the trial and spoke to her about the trial. However, when asked, she said she did not feel pressured. According to her own statements, the lawyer had advised her to seek therapeutic support or, alternatively, to have a certificate issued by her psychotherapist so that she did not have to testify. The 72-year-old explained that she ultimately decided to testify “because I thought lying had to stop”.

The Cologne public prosecutor’s office had initiated preliminary proceedings against Woelki last week on suspicion of false affidavit. Woelki rejects the accusation. The investigation was triggered by an interview in which the former assistant to the head of human resources in the archdiocese said that she had informed Woelki early on about allegations of abuse against the former Sternsinger boss Winfried Pilz.

Woelki has long been criticized for his handling of abuse cases in the archdiocese. Pope Francis had asked him to submit a resignation, which Woelki did. However, the Pope has not yet decided whether to accept the request.


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