Raid in the Archdiocese of Cologne after investigations against Woelki


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Status: 06/27/2023 09:19 am

The Cologne public prosecutor’s office and the police have been searching various objects in the Archdiocese of Cologne since the morning hours. The background to the raid is perjury investigations against Cologne Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki.

By Jochen Hilgers and Markus Schmitz

The public prosecutor is looking for the originals of incriminating documents that WDR has already published in recent months. They raise the suspicion that Woelki lied in court.

Several objects of the Archdiocese are searched

The investigators drove to several buildings at eight o’clock sharp. It took a while for them to get in. Cardinal Woelki himself came to the archbishop’s residence and opened the gate for the investigators in civilian clothes.

Among other things, rooms in the archbishop’s residence, the general vicariate and the curia house are being searched. The archives of the Archdiocese are widely ramified. The background to the raid is the suspicion that Woelki could have lied in court when testifying under oath.

The procedure concerned the promotion of a priest to the deputy city dean of Düsseldorf. Woelki said he did not know anything about his inclinations until March of this year. In the courtroom he said: “I swear, so help me God”.

“Joined to you in Christ”

However, the WDR had recently published a letter from Woelki that seemed personal to the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican. The allegations against the priest were described in detail in 2018. In the four-page letter that was leaked to WDR, Woelki meticulously lists various sexual assaults by the pastor against young people.

For example, he is said to have frequently visited the sauna with underage young altar boys and invited them to alcoholic drinks. After that, porn films are said to have been watched together. With a At the age of 19, he watched porn films against his will in his apartment and masturbated in his presence. The young man only managed to leave the clergyman’s apartment at four in the morning.

The letter says at the end. “Your Eminence, I kindly ask for your instructions as to whether and, if so, which steps are necessary in this case. United to you in Christ”. Woelki claims to have commissioned the letter and not read it.

Excerpt from personnel file

In addition, the WDR has another letter that also dates from November 2018. It is signed by the then official of the Archdiocese of Cologne, Günter Assenmacher. The core sentence of the letter reads: “…as agreed, I have put together a dossier that the Cardinal sent today with an accompanying letter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith via the nunciature, with the request for further instructions.”

According to Assenmacher, the cardinal personally initiated the letter. Was obviously actively involved in the process. That would be diametrically opposed to his statement that he only signed the letter. The letter is apparently an excerpt from the personal file of the priest in question.

It provides insights into the Archdiocese’s practice in dealing with priests who have approached young people. There is also a column about the “accusations against the cleric”. A case from 2001 is listed. There the priest met a young prostitute at Cologne Central Station.

imprisonment of one year

Perjury is a so-called felony offense. The legislature provides for a penalty of at least one year in prison. In addition to the current allegation, the public prosecutor’s office is also investigating Woelki on suspicion of false affidavit in two cases.

The public prosecutor assumes further investigations for months. In the coming weeks, the secured evidence must be evaluated. Perjury is usually prosecuted by all means of the law. The Vatican may also intervene in the concerns of the Archdiocese of Cologne.

We report on this topic on WDR on June 27th, 2023, also on the radio in the news at 9 a.m. and on TV WDR Aktuell at 12.45 p.m.

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