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German prosecutors probe cardinal over affidavit

November 9, 2022

The Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, is under investigation for allegedly making a false statement while under oath about his knowledge of sexual abuse.

Rainer Maria Woelki holds a dossier
He is accused of making a false statement while under oathImage: Nicolas Armer/dpa/picture alliance

Prosecutors in the western German city of Cologne have launched an investigation into Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki's alleged false affidavit, German media reported on Wednesday. 

Woelki has faced accusations of covering up an alleged sexual abuse case. He had said he had only dealt with the sexual abuse case against a priest since June 2022.  

But a former church employee interviewed by the local paper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger said Woelki had been informed about the abuse in 2015.

The former employee said she had drawn up a list of abusers for Woelki in 2015 but "that didn't interest the cardinal at all."

What is the sexual abuse case?

The sexual abuse case concerns a priest in Düsseldorf who died in 2017 with whom Woelki worked with when he was younger as a deacon.

In 2010, a victim contacted the archdiocese of Cologne, saying the priest sexually abused him while he was a child in the late 1970s. The victim was later paid €15,000 ($15,030) in recognition of his suffering in 2011.

A 2018 study by the German Bishops' Conference found that some 1,670 clerics, mostly priests, were accused of committing sexual abuse between 1946 and 2014.

At least 3,677 individual victims were abused, according to the report, although the number is likely much higher due to restrictions on accessing documents in Catholic institutions and the stigma surrounding sexual abuse. 

fb/aw (dpa, KNA, AFP)