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Pope orders probe of German archdiocese over child sex abuse

Pope Francis has ordered an apostolic visitation of the archdiocese of Cologne, which has been rocked by a damning report on child sex abuse, the diocese said Friday.

Pope orders probe of German archdiocese over child sex abuse
Cologne's Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki addresses a press conference in Cologne to present the results of a report on child sex abuse in Germany's Roman Catholic Church. Photo: Oliver Berg / POOL / AFP

The Pope has appointed two “apostolic visitors” charged with establishing a “comprehensive picture of the complex pastoral situation in the archdiocese”,
it said in a statement.

They will also examine “possible mistakes made” by Cologne’s Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki.

An apostolic visitation is normally launched when the Pope judges that a diocese is no longer able to resolve its difficulties internally.

Cardinal Anders Arborelius of Stockholm and Bishop Johannes van den Hende of Rotterdam will carry out their investigations over the first two weeks of June.

The probe comes as Woelki faces a wave of criticism, including allegations that he helped cover up abuse by two priests in Duesseldorf, one of whom has since died.

Woelki welcomed the pontiff’s decision however, calling it “good and correct” because it will provide “an outside point of view” of his diocese, the German news agency dpa reported.

READ ALSO: Over 300 victims ‘sexually abused through Germany’s top diocese’ in Cologne 
READ ALSO: Tensions mount in German catholic church over abuse report

The cardinal has faced angry protests this week over plans for him to carry out a confirmation service for 17 young people in the city.

Arch-conservative Woelki refused last year to allow the publication of a study on abuse committed by priests in Germany’s top diocese.

He had justified his decision citing a right to privacy for those accused in the report, carried out by a Munich law firm, and what he called a lack of independence on the part of some researchers.

He then commissioned a second report, published in March, which revealed that 314 minors, mostly boys under the age of 14, were sexually abused between 1975 and 2018 in the diocese, mostly by clergy.

However, the investigation cleared Woelki of breach of duty over the abuse.

Most of the allegations cover the tenure of Woelki’s predecessor, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, who died in 2017.

Canon law expert Thomas Schüller told the Rheinische Post newspaper such a visit was “extremely unusual for a cardinal” and the Vatican must be “very worried that there is something serious and substantial in the allegations”.

“In 99 percent of cases, a visitation is the beginning of the end,” he said.

 

 

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CRIME

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

A driver in Passau has been hit with a €5,000 fine because he was caught by traffic police giving the middle finger.

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

The district court of Passau sentenced the 53-year-old motorist to the fine after he was caught making the rude gesture in the direction of the speedometer last August on the A3 near the Donautal Ost service area, reported German media. 

The man was not caught speeding, however. According to traffic police who were in the speed camera vehicle at the time, another driver who had overtaken the 53-year-old was over the speed limit. 

When analysing the photo, the officers discovered the slower driver’s middle finger gesture and filed a criminal complaint.

The driver initially filed an objection against a penalty order, and the case dragged on for several months. However, he then accepted the complaint. He was sentenced to 50 ‘unit fines’ of €100 on two counts of insulting behaviour, amounting to €5,000.

READ ALSO: The German rules of the road that are hard to get your head around

In a letter to police, the man said he regretted the incident and apologised. 

Police said it was “not a petty offence”, and that the sentence could have been “even more drastic”.

People who give insults while driving can face a prison sentences of up to a year.

“Depending on the nature and manner of the incident or in the case of persons with a previous conviction, even a custodial sentence without parole may be considered for an insult,” police in Passau said. 

What does the law say?

Showing the middle finger to another road user in road traffic is an offence in Germany under Section 185 of the Criminal Code (StGB). It’s punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.

People can file a complaint if someone shows them the middle finger in road traffic, but it usually only has a chance of success if witnesses can prove that it happened.

As well as the middle finger, it can also be an offence to verbally insult someone. 

READ ALSO: The German road signs that confuse foreigners

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