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German clergyman defends pope’s decision to keep archbishop | World news

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The head of the German Bishops’ Conference on Monday defended the pope’s decision to allow the Archbishop of Hamburg to remain in this post, although he has been blamed for his handling of allegations of sexual abuse.

The Bishop of Limburg, Georg Baetzing, said he understood what people thought of the decision, but that Pope Francis got there by adhering to the tough new rules he instituted after a summit on abuses in 2019 to prevent cover-ups.

“There are a lot of people who are confused by this decision – they express their disappointment, they expected something else, among them especially those who are affected,” Baetzing said at the start of a regular meeting of the Bishops’ Conference German, that he has chairs. “I can understand that well.”

However, Baetzing said that “Pope Francis has obeyed his own law”. He said the new rules set out the criteria by which bishops could lose their jobs, and “in recent years a number of bishops around the world have lost their jobs because of this new legal position.”

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Six months after Archbishop Stefan Hesse offered his resignation, the papal nuncio’s office in Berlin said last week that Pope Francis had rejected the offer. He said the Vatican found “personal procedural errors” on Hesse’s part, but an investigation has not shown that they were made with the intention of covering up cases of abuse.

He also said that Hesse admitted his mistakes when he was a senior official in the Archdiocese of Cologne “with humility”. A Catholic group of influential German secularists sharply criticized the decision.

Hesse’s offer to resign came after a report commissioned by his counterpart in Cologne revealed 75 cases in which high-ranking officials neglected their duties in such cases. Hesse was blamed for 11 cases of dereliction of duty.

The Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, was cleared by the report, but remains under pressure for his handling of the issue. He refused to withdraw.

The Vatican sent two envoys to Cologne in June to investigate possible mistakes by senior church officials in handling past sexual abuse cases and the “complex pastoral situation” in the deeply divided church the low.

Baetzing said he is still awaiting an assessment from Rome of their overall findings.

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