Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz has called on the Vatican to come to a quick decision concerning Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki’s offer of resignation.
“The present state of uncertainly makes it most difficult for those concerned to cope with the situ-disation,” he told the Rhine Main press group (VRM) on 5 April.
Already at their spring plenary in March, conference president Bishop Georg Bätzing said that the situation in Cologne archdiocese was tense and warned that it would not be possible “just to keep on observing it” for much longer.
He recalled that Cardinal Woelki had offered the Pope his resignation but had also asked the archdiocese to give him a second chance. “The responsibility now rests with the Pope and Cardinal Marc Ouellet [prefect of the Congregation for Bishops],” Bishop Bätzing emphasised.
Meanwhile, on 1 and 2 April, Cardinal Woelki met with the 74 members of the archdiocesan pastoral council for the first time since his return to office after more than four months’ time off at the Pope’s wish. Cardinal Woelki announced that vicar general Markus Hofmann, 54, was resigning “because of certain financial irregularities”.
Fr Hofmann is the third vicar general to leave since Cardinal Woelki became archbishop in 2014. He would be replaced in July, the cardinal said. It also emerged that finding sponsors for the Cologne University for Catholic Theology(KHKT), one of Cardinal Woelki’s favourite projects, had run into difficulties.
For now the KHKT is using money from the so-called Bishops’ Fund, into which the clergy have made regular payments for years. The archdiocesan council has called for the KHKT to be closed. Cardinal Woelki was asked why he had recently remarked that the Pope was an “old man”. He replied that the Pope told him he was fully behind him and he could say so openly. “I decided not to do that and not burden the old man with my problems,” Cardinal Woelki said.