Cardinal Woelki has been ratified as Archbishop of Cologne by Pope Francis. In a communiqué from the Holy See, made public today, Friday, September 24, through the Apostolic Nunciature in Germany, the Holy Father refers to the report drawn up following the visitation of the archdiocese by Cardinal Anders Arborelius, Bishop of Stockholm, and Bishop Johannes van den Hende, Bishop of Rotterdam: "With regard to the Archbishop of Cologne, His Eminence Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, no evidence has emerged that he acted against the law in dealing with cases of sexual abuse. Claims that the Cardinal wanted to conceal something, especially by initially withholding the publication of a first study, have been refuted by the facts already published and by documents that have been analyzed by the Holy See. The Archbishop's decision to deal with the crimes of abuse in the Church, to address those affected and to encourage prevention, is manifested in the implementation of the recommendations of the second study, which he has already begun to carry out."
The document also mentions that the Cardinal "in general, the way of dealing with these events, especially at the level of communication", has also made mistakes; for this reason, in a long conversation between the Pope and the Cardinal, the latter asked for a "time of reflection, renewal and reconciliation", which led the Holy Father to accede to Cardinal Woelki's wish for a "time of reflection" from mid-October until the beginning of Lent. Until that time, Bishop Rolf Steinhäuser will be in charge of the diocese.
Regarding the auxiliary bishops of Cologne who had placed their positions at the disposal of the Holy See, the document states that "the Holy Father has decided not to accept their resignation": "While both bishops made some mistakes in dealing with procedures, they did not do so with the intention of concealing abuses or ignoring those affected". Ansgar Puff will therefore immediately resume his position as auxiliary bishop; in the case of Bishop Dominikus Schwaderlapp, the Holy Father has granted his request to work, before his return to the archdiocese, for a year in pastoral ministry in the archdiocese of Mombasa (Kenya).