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RELIGION

Pope rejects German bishop’s offer to quit over abuse scandal

Pope Francis on Thursday rejected an offer by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, a top German bishop, to resign over the mishandling of sexual abuse and cover-up scandals.

Pope rejects German bishop's offer to quit over abuse scandal
Marx following a service in Haar, Bavaria on Sunday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Matthias Balk

“Continue as you propose (in your pastoral work) but as Archbishop of
Munich and Freising,” the pope wrote to Marx, referring to the position he was offering to vacate.

Marx announced earlier this month that he had offered the pope his
resignation over the church’s “institutional and systemic failure” in handling
child sex abuse scandals.

READ ALSO: German bishop resigns over Catholic Church’s ‘failure’ in abuse scandal

The stunning decision came after the church in Germany, like in many places elsewhere, was shaken by allegations of wide-ranging abuse by clergymen against minors.

In his letter, the pope agreed with Marx in calling the clerical sexual
abuse scandals “a catastrophe” and the way the Catholic Church dealt with them “until recently”.

“The entire Church is in crisis because of the abuse issue” and “the Church
cannot proceed without tackling this crisis. The policy of burying the head in
the sand leads nowhere,” he wrote.

In his original letter to the pope dated May 21st and published on June 4th by his archdiocese, Marx said: “It is important to me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades.”

Investigations and reports had “consistently shown there have been many
personal failures and administrative mistakes but also institutional or
‘systemic’ failure,” added Marx, who was president of the German Bishops’
Conference from 2012 to 2020.

Slamming colleagues who “refuse to believe there is a shared responsibility
in this respect”, he said the Church was at “a dead end”.

Marx — who was never personally accused of abuse or cover up, and who
would have remained a cardinal even if Francis had allowed him to quit as
archbishop — added that he hoped his resignation would offer a new beginning for the Church.

Speaking to journalists, he confirmed the pope had given him permission to
publish the letter and that he would continue in his role until he received a
response to his offer.

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OPINION & ANALYSIS

‘Police should have stopped Koran-burning demos after the first day’

Swedish police underestimated the level of violence that awaited them and should have called a halt to Danish-Swedish extremist Rasmus Paludan’s demos as soon as it became clear the riots were spiralling out of control, argues journalist Bilan Osman. 

‘Police should have stopped Koran-burning demos after the first day’

Speaking to The Local for the Sweden in Focus podcast, out this Saturday, Osman said she understood why the police had allowed the demonstrations to go ahead in the first place but that the safety of civilians and police officers should have taken precedence when the counter-demonstrations turned violent. 

“Just to be clear, I don’t think it’s an easy question. I think everyone, regardless of views or beliefs, should have the right to demonstrate,” said Osman, who writes for the left-wing Dagens ETC newspaper and previously lectured for the anti-racist Expo Foundation.

“I understand people who say that violence [from counter-demonstrators] shouldn’t be a reason to stop people from demonstrating. I truly believe that. But at the same time: was it worth it this time when it’s about people’s lives and safety?” 

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

“I think the police honestly misjudged the situation. I understand why Paludan was allowed to demonstrate the first day. It’s not the first time he has burned the Koran in Sweden. When he burned the Koran in Rinkeby last year nothing happened. But this time it was chaos.” 

Osman noted that Rasmus Paludan did not even show up for a planned demonstration in her home city of Linköping – but the police were targeted anyway. 

“I know people who were terrified of going home. I know people who had rocks thrown in their direction, not to mention the people who worked that day, policemen and women who feared for their lives. So for the safety of civilians and the police the manifestations should have been stopped at that point. Instead it went on, not only for a second day but also a third day and a fourth day.” 

On the question of whether it was acceptable to burn Islam’s holy book, Osman said it depended on the context. 

“If you burn the Koran mainly to criticise religion, or even Islam, of course it should be accepted in a democracy. The state should not only allow these things, but also protect people that do so. 

“I do believe that. Even as a Muslim. That’s an important part of the freedom of speech. 

A previous recipient of an award from the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism for her efforts to combat prejudice in society, Osman drew parallels with virulent anti-Semitism and said it was “terrifying” that Paludan was being treated by many as a free speech campaigner rather than a far-right extremist.  

“If you are a right-wing extremist that wants to ethnically cleanse, that wants to cleanse Muslims from Sweden, and therefore burn the Koran, it’s actually dumb to think that this is a question about freedom of speech. When Nazis burn everything Jewish it’s not a critique against Judaism, it’s anti-Semitism.” 

Anti-Muslim sentiment in Sweden tended to come in waves, Osman said, pointing to 9/11 and Anders Behring Brevik’s attacks in Norway as previous occasions when Islamophobia was rampant. Now the Easter riots had unleashed a new wave of hatred against Muslims that she described as “alarming” and the worst yet. 

“I do believe that we will find a way to coexist in our democracy. But we have to put in a lot work. And Muslims can’t do that work alone. We need allies in this.” 

Listen to more from Bilan Osman on the April 23rd episode of Sweden in Focus: Why Sweden experienced its worst riots in decades.

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