Cardinal Rainer Woelki Confirmed by Pope Francis in his Office as Archbishop of Cologne, Germany after Apostolic Visitation - Official FULL TEXT Release

Rome / Cologne. Pope Francis today made important decisions for the future of the Archdiocese of Cologne. He confirmed Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki in his office as Archbishop of Cologne. The Vatican also paid tribute to the efforts made by the Archdiocese to clarify the cases of abuse. Francis expressly praised Woelki's determination to approach those affected.

"The Holy Father is counting on Cardinal Woelki, he recognizes his loyalty to the Holy See and his concern for the unity of the Church," says a statement from the Holy See published today. Nonetheless, the Pope criticized the fact that great mistakes had been made in cooperation in the archdiocese.

Cardinal Woelki thanked Francis: He was aware that trust in the Archdiocese of Cologne had been lost in recent months. This pains him very much. He told the Pope about a long-standing idea of ​​a spiritual break for himself. It is necessary to pause. In order to be able to reflect and to open up space so that trust can grow again, he asked the Pope to be able to retire from mid-October to March 1 for reflection and, above all, prayer. Francis had granted him this.  

"I am walking this path with the clear message from the Holy Father that we have given serious and comprehensive information and that we have not covered up anything," said Woelki. "I would like to ask you to pray for the Archdiocese and for me in the coming weeks. I also promise you my fervent prayer," said Woelki to the address of the faithful. 

As Apostolic Administrator, Auxiliary Bishop Rolf Steinhäuser is to ensure the proper administration of the Archdiocese. In addition, the Vatican decided that Auxiliary Bishop Ansgar Puff can exercise his office again with immediate effect. Auxiliary Bishop Dominikus Schwaderlapp will also remain in office, but will, at his own request, undertake pastoral work in Kenya for about a year. 

"I have great respect for the size of the task," said Auxiliary Bishop Steinhäuser. "We will continue the path of reconciliation already initiated by Cardinal Woelki in the Archdiocese of Cologne," said the 69-year-old native of Cologne.

Auxiliary Bishop Schwaderlapp said the past few months had meant a deep turning point for him. During this time of reflection and silence, and after numerous pastoral discussions, it became clear to him: "There cannot be a simple 'business as usual'." So the decision had matured in him to work as a simple priest in Africa for a time. He hoped for "inner maturation and renewal and a deepening of my priestly and episcopal vocation."  

Auxiliary Bishop Puff referred to the experiences that he had gained in recent months as a pastor in an old people's center and in helping the homeless. You would have changed him inside. "I know that I have made mistakes and I do and I ask for forgiveness." In the future he wanted to work and live in such a way that people could trust him again. Puff donates part of his salary to a fund for those affected and will continue to work in pastoral care for the homeless.  

Pope Francis ordered an apostolic visitation of the Archdiocese of Cologne at the end of May this year. The ambassadors of the Holy See were on site in the Archdiocese of Cologne in the first half of June to get a comprehensive picture of the complex pastoral situation. In addition, the visitors should investigate any mistakes Cardinal Woelkis and Auxiliary Bishops Dominikus Schwaderlapp and Ansgar Puff made in dealing with cases of sexual abuse. 

The auxiliary bishops Schwaderlapp and Puff had suspended their episcopal offices from mid-March after the Gercke report on dealing with the abuse in the Archdiocese of Cologne was published. In the report, Schwaderlapp was accused of several breaches of duty and Puff of a breach of duty. 

Message from the Holy See in full (PDF)