German church demands quick decision on divisive archbishop
BERLIN— The head of Germany’s bishops’ conference on Monday demanded a quick decision from Pope Francis on the future of a prominent archbishop who faces heavy criticism for his handling of the church’s sex abuse scandal.
Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, archbishop of Cologne, said he offered the pontiff his resignation after he returned from a months-long “spiritual downtime” last week.
Conservative Woelki has become a deeply divisive figure in the German church after sparking a public furor over his handling of reports of how church officials in his archdiocese have handled abuse cases. In September, the Vatican said Francis decided to give him a timeout after he made what he called “major errors” in communication.
Woelki asked the faithful last week to “give me – no, us – another chance”.
The head of the German Bishops’ Conference, Limburg Bishop Georg Baetzing, said Woelki sent a “strong signal” with his resignation offer but noted that the atmosphere in Cologne remains very tense.
Francis and the Vatican “now bear responsibility for this situation,” Baetzing told reporters at the start of a regular meeting of German bishops. “And I think they won’t be able to watch for long.”
Baetzing said he hopes Woelki and the Cologne faithful can reconcile, but “otherwise the pope must act.”