Cardinal Woelki Remains Archbishop of Cologne

September 30, 2021

Pope Francis has decreed that Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki will remain as head of the Archdiocese of Cologne, while allowing him to take a sabbatical until next Lent.

The purpurato did not commit any irregularities in handling cases of abuse, although he did make communication errors.

After a thorough investigation, Pope Francis has decided to keep Cardinal Woelki in his post and allow him to take some rest. The two auxiliary bishops Puff and Schwaderlapp will also remain in their posts, the apostolic nunciature in Germany announced on Friday.

According to the nunciature, there is no indication that Woelki engaged in illegal behavior in handling cases of sexual abuse.

The cardinal had been accused of publicly covering up the first report of abuse, but the accusation turned out to be false.

In contrast, the nuncio explicitly praised the Archbishop's “determination to tackle crimes of abuse in the church, to reach out to those affected and to promote prevention.”

On the other hand Woelki made “big mistakes” in communication. This significantly contributed to a “crisis of confidence” in the archdiocese.

As it was clear that “the Archbishop and the Archdiocese needed a time of rest, renewal, and reconciliation.” At his request, Pope Francis granted Woelki a “sabbatical leave” which is to last from mid-October to Lent.

Until then, Auxiliary Bishop Rolf Steinhäuser will lead the archdiocese as apostolic administrator.

Auxiliary Bishops Dominikus Schwaderlapp and Ansgar Puff will also remain in their posts. Although there were “isolated shortcomings in their handling of the process, there was no intention to cover up the abuses or ignore those involved.”

Bishop Puff will resume his ministry immediately, while Bishop Schwaderlapp has asked to work for a year as chaplain in the Kenyan Archdiocese of Mombasa.

It should be remembered that Cardinal Woelki is one of the only bishops who opposes the Synodal Path which is about to enter its final phase in Germany.