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Germany: Police raid Cologne Archdiocese in perjury probe

June 27, 2023

Police have searched properties belonging to the Catholic Church's representative in Cologne amid accusations that Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki covered up sexual abuse cases.

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki
Cardinal Woelki is being investigated over claims he lied in court about his knowledge of sexual abuse in the Catholic ChurchImage: Robert Michael/dpa/picture alliance

Police and prosecutors in the German city of Cologne carried out raids on properties belonging to the local Catholic Church archdiocese on Tuesday as a part of a probe into Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki.

The archbishop has been accused of lying in court over his knowledge of sexual abuse cases in the church. Woelki has denied the allegations.

Police search several locations

The raids began at 8 a.m. local time with police searching four properties in Cologne as well as one property each in Kassel and the town of Lohfelden in Hesse. Around 30 police officers were involved in the raids.

Police also raided the premises of the IT company that supplies the email service for the archdiocese.

The searches were met with cooperation, with Woelki himself opening the door to the police at the archbishop's residence, public broadcaster WDR reported.

"The measures were carried out without incident and met with widespread cooperation at their respective search locations," authorities said.

Sexual abuse in Germany – A cardinal under pressure

Why is the Cologne archbishop being investigated?

Police and prosecutors were looking to seize documents connected to the investigation into the claim of perjury against Cardinal Woelki.

Perjury is a felony offense and carries a minimum sentence of one year in prison. Prosecutors expect the investigation to take several months.

The case revolves around the promotion of a priest to a high position in the city of Düsseldorf who has been accused of numerous counts of sexual abuse against minors.

Woelki said he had only known about the abuse cases since last year. However, a former employee said she had drawn up a list of abusers for Woelki in 2015 but "that didn't interest the cardinal at all."

The investigation leading to Tuesday's raids comes from a complaint issued by a private individual after Woelki gave a sworn statement in a case against the German newspaper Bild over claims of libel in March of this year.

"I swear, so help me God," Woelki said in his statement at the time, according to WDR.

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ab/nm (dpa, Reuters, KNA, AFP, AP)