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CRIME

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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GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

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