Pope Francis has dispatched two senior foreign bishops to investigate the archbishop of Cologne’s handling of sexual abuse allegations in Germany’s largest archdiocese, the pontiff’s representative in Germany said in Berlin on Friday.
Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki has been criticized for his handling of historic child sex abuse allegations, in particular for his decision to shelve a report into earlier wrongdoings by priests because of unspecified methodological shortcomings.
An 800-page follow-up report into the handling of abuse cases in the Cologne archdiocese between 1975 and 2018 found more than 200 abusers and more than 300 victims mostly under the age of 14.
“Pope Francis has ordered an Apostolic Visitation to the Archdiocese of Cologne,” Nikola Eterovic, the papal nuncio to Germany, said in a statement.
“The Holy See’s delegates will form a comprehensive picture of the complex pastoral situation in the Archbishopric and consider any possible failings by Cardinal Woelki and his excellency Stefan Hesse, Archbishop of Hamburg,” he added.
Cologne, by some measures the world’s richest diocese — with a bigger income than the Vatican itself —