Crisis of confidence over cardinal shakes Cologne Catholics

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki

: Crisis of confidence over cardinal shakes Cologne Catholics
Author: Kirsten Grieshaber
Publisher: Crux (via Associated Press)
Date: 10DEC2022

COLOGNE, Germany — An unprecedented crisis of confidence is shaking a historic center of Catholicism in Germany — the Archdiocese of Cologne. Catholic believers have protested their deeply divisive archbishop, and are leaving in droves over allegations that he may have covered up clergy sexual abuse reports.While Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki’s personal fate is in the hands of Pope Francis, the drama has reverberations nationwide, given that the Cologne archdiocese has more Catholics than any other in Germany — about 1.8 million. Its double-domed cathedral is an iconic tourist attraction and one of the oldest, most important pilgrimage sites of Northern Europe.

And the crisis in Cologne, in which many thousands of Catholics in the region have left the church, is in some ways a microcosm of the issues playing out in the German Catholic Church as a whole as it undergoes a profound and controversial reform process precisely to respond to complaints by rank-and-file Catholics about the hierarchy’s responsibility for the clergy abuse crisis.

Some archdiocese employees have refused to attend meetings with the archbishop. Congregants of a Duesseldorf parish in the archdiocese raised red cards in protest when he visited last year, objecting to him administering the sacrament of confirmation to their children.

Dozens of altar boys and girls from the archdiocese turned their backs in protest to Woelki when he celebrated Mass with them during a trip to Rome in October. The choirs in the archdiocese recently reported a loss of 30 percent of their members, which they say is partially related to the coronavirus pandemic but also a clear repudiation of Woelki.

In the latest escalation, Cologne prosecutors last month opened an investigation against the powerful conservative cardinal in two cases on suspicion of making false affidavits. In each case, the question is whether Woelki, 66, had been informed earlier than he stated about allegations of abuse against certain clergymen. The cardinal rejects all accusations against him.

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