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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

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.

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