BERLIN (Reuters) – Victims of Catholic Church sex abuse met on Tuesday with two senior bishops sent by the Pope to investigate the German archdiosese of Cologne, which has come under increasing pressure after a report found hundreds of historic cases.
The Pope’s two envoys are looking at possible mistakes committed by Germany’s largest archdiocese, after an 800-page report in March found more than 200 abusers and more than 300 victims, mainly children, in cases from 1975-2018.
“We were allowed to decide what we said, how long we talked. We were not cut off,” said Patrick Bauer, who had resigned from the Cologne advisory board in protest against the archdiocese’s handling of the scandal.
“When I told them about my sadness, they clearly showed they felt it, they were empathetic,” he told Reuters TV.
Cologne Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki has drawn criticism for his handling of the historic allegations, including a decision not to publish an earlier report into wrongdoing after he disagreed with its methodology. The study published in March was commissioned instead.
Last week, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, a former head of the Catholic Church in Germany and leading liberal figure, offered to resign as archbishop of Munich, citing shared responsibility for the sexual abuse “catastrophe” by clerics in past decades. Marx’s move increased the pressure on Woelki to step down, but he has so far refused.
Karl Haucke, another victim who resigned from the Cologne advisory board in protest at the handling of the scandal, welcomed Tuesday’s meeting.
“I sensed a clear, active listening. I felt a lot of empathy,” Haucke told Reuters TV.
Papal investigators Anders Cardinal Arborelius, the Bishop of Stockholm, and Johannes van der Hende, Bishop of Rotterdam, are expected to stay in Cologne for about a week and write a report for the Pope.
(Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Madeline Chambers)