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“Cologne affects us all”: Woelki case leaves bishops speechless

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“Cologne affects us all”
The Woelki case leaves bishops speechless

The episcopal conference has no answer as to how the controversial Cardinal Woelki of Cologne will continue. Doubts about whether a rehabilitation can be successful in his archdiocese are great. With a view to the war in Ukraine, the German bishops are in favor of arms deliveries.

After the controversial Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki returned to the post of archbishop of Cologne, the president of the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Georg Bätzing, admitted that the Bishops’ Conference was speechless at the situation in Germany’s largest diocese. Whether Woelki’s return goes well or not, it will have an impact on the entire Catholic Church in Germany, the Bishop of Limburg said at the end of the spring plenary assembly of bishops at the Vierteen Heiligen monastery in Bad Staffelstein. “Cologne affects us all.”

Bätzing campaigned to give Woelki a chance. At the same time, he admitted that it would not be easy to build “bridges of reconciliation”. “This is an important task now.” Whether this succeeds depends not least on the internal attitude with which the cardinal approaches the committees of his archdiocese.

Woelki returned on Ash Wednesday from a break that had lasted since October. He came to this after persistent criticism of his communication and his handling of the abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Cologne. As is now known, Woelki offered Pope Francis his resignation during the recess. The Pope still has to decide.

“The Pope would leave for Moscow immediately”

The Russian attack on Ukraine was also a major topic at the bishops’ conference. According to President Bätzing, Pope Francis would immediately be ready for a peace mission in Russia. “The Pope would go to Moscow immediately,” he said. However, the Russian Orthodox Church has been rejecting the Pope’s visit for more than 30 years. There are real barriers here, “which are also an internal ecumenical burden.”

The bishops adopted a declaration titled “Resist Aggression, Win Peace, Support Victims.” In it they also ask Patriarch Kirill to “clearly” distance himself from the war. “The world needs the common witness of the churches, especially in times of need and upheaval, these are also times of decision,” said Bätzing, referring to the patriarch, who recently called the Ukrainian soldiers “forces of evil”.

In the statement, the bishops’ conference also came out in favor of arms deliveries to Ukraine under clearly defined conditions. In the opinion of the bishops, deliveries of weapons are fundamentally legitimate so that the attacked country can exercise its right to legitimate defense, guaranteed by international law and affirmed by the Church’s ethics of peace. “But it’s up to those who have to make the decision to think carefully about what they’re doing and possibly doing with it,” he said. This applies equally to supporters and opponents of arms deliveries.

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