Pope Francis on Friday ordered a review of the Catholic Church in Cologne in the wake of a scandal triggered by criticism of the church’s handling of sex abuse by priests in the west German city.
The pope plans to dispatch a so-called apostolic visitation to Germany’s largest diocese next month to investigate “possible errors” undertaken by Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki in handling the claims of sexual misconduct.
Earlier this year, Woelki refused to resign following the publication of an independent and highly critical report over the sex abuse cases, which accused him of breaches of duty.
The scandal has already led to 14 of the 15 district and city deans demanding that Woelki face “personal consequences.”
Instead, Woelki has insisted that he planned to improve measures at the church to ensure there were no further mistakes.
The papal review, which has been provided with broad powers, is to be undertaken by two bishops – the bishop of Stockholm, Cardinal Anders Arborelius, and Johannes van den Hende, bishop of Rotterdam and president of the Dutch Bishops’ Conference.
“During the first half of June, the Holy See’s envoys will visit the area to get a comprehensive picture of the complex pastoral situation in the archdiocese,” the church in Cologne said on Friday.
The two bishops are to investigate “possible errors” by Woelki in dealing with the cases, the statement said.
The review’s focus is also on Hamburg Archbishop Stefan Hesse – formerly head of personnel in Cologne – as well as the two suspended auxiliary bishops of Cologne, Dominikus Schwaderlapp and Ansgar Puff.