Cologne (AP) — Nearly three weeks after returning from a break, Cologne’s Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki made his first public appearance Monday.
The archbishop used a large bulldozer and removed the sand with a shovel. He also held a symbolic opening ceremony. Shovel in hand, he jokingly warned the photographers and journalists present to beware of the flying sand: “I don’t want to mess it up with you guys anymore!” The Archdiocese of Cologne is building an educational campus for children and youth on the site in the district of Cologne-Kalk, where many people with a migration background live.
The parish priest of Cologne, Franz Meurer, was present at the event, highly respected for his social commitment. The 70-year-old told the German Press Agency about Woelki: “If he understands that he is one of us, then everything is fine.” But if you think you’re something extra as a cardinal, or as a bishop, or as a priest, that’s all nonsense.” It’s also important for the church to become more democratic. But that’s been the reality for a long time at the grassroots level, Meurer said. : “If I told people here, ‘I’m the pastor,’ they’d call the doctor!”
back from a months break
Woelki returned from a five-month break on March 2. He had previously offered the Pope his resignation. However, Francis has decreed that Woelki must first resume work from him. He later he will decide on the resignation offer. Woelki originally planned to celebrate a mass in Cologne Cathedral on the day of his return, but then decided to start “quietly”, as he put it.
The Archdiocese of Cologne has been in crisis since Woelki decided in 2020 not to initially publish an expert opinion on how diocesan officials deal with child sexual abuse cases. He cited legal reasons for this and commissioned a new report. In the course of this decision, there was a growing rift between the cardinal and the most important organs of the archdiocese.
Bonn City Dean Wolfgang Picken is critical of the current state of uncertainty. “It is incomprehensible that the Vatican avoided a clear decision on Cardinal Woelki,” Picken wrote in an article for Die Welt a few days ago. “The hanging game continues.” It is unclear how a new start should succeed under this condition.