Cologne: Apostolic Administrator Is Appointed

Cardinal Woelki, Exonerated from the Accusation of Having Covered Up Abuses, Takes Time Out for Reflection until this Coming Lent

Apostolic Administrator
Cardinal Woelki (C) Vatican Media

The Holy Father appointed Apostolic Administrator sede plena et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Cologne, Germany, Monsignor Rolf Steinhäuser, Auxiliary Bishop of the same diocese.

The decision comes after the Pope agreed to accept Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki’s request at the end of September, to spend “a spiritual time outside the diocese,” from mid-October to the beginning of this coming Lent, despite the Pope’s confirming his trust in the Cardinal.

The Apostolic Visit

The story arises from the Apostolic Visit made from the 7th to the 14th of last June by the Cardinal Archbishop of Stockholm, Anders Arborelius, and the Bishop of Rotterdam, Johannes van den Hende. All stemmed from the alleged coverup of abuses. However, it emerged clearly — as reported in a press release of the Apostolic Nunciature in Germany –, that ”the Cardinal did not act against the law in the handling of cases of sexual abuse.”

The documentation and investigation excluded any attempt of cover-up and assured, on the contrary, “the Archbishop’s determination to address the crime of abuses, to take care of the victims and to promote prevention.” However, according to the Nunciature, the crisis of trust, in the Archdiocese’s handling of the cases was caused by the Archbishop’s errors of communication.

Fidelity to the Pope

 The note also explained that the Holy Father “acknowledges the Cardinal’s “fidelity”  to “the Holy See and his commitment to the unity of the Church. At the same time, it is evident that the Archbishop and the Archdiocese are in need of a break, of a time of renewal and reconciliation.” Hence the decision for a pause of reflection and the appointment of Monsignor Steinhäuser.

The Auxiliaries Are also Exonerated

 At the same time, the Pope rejected the resignations presented by two Auxiliary Bishops of Cologne, Dominikus Schwaderlapp and Ansgar Puff. The Nunciature explained that management defects had been verified, but not the intention to cover up the abuses or to ignore the victims on the part of two Bishops. Monsignor Puff immediately resumed his duties, whereas Monsignor Schwaderlapp requested and obtained <permission> to spend a pastoral year in Mombasa, Kenya, before returning to Cologne.

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester