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Prominent German cardinal offers to step down for church sex abuse

BERLIN – Cardinal Reinhard Marx, a leading figure in the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, has offered his resignation to Pope Francis as an act of personal responsibility for the sexual abuse committed by priests in recent decades, said the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising on Friday.

In a letter sent to the Vatican on May 21, the cardinal said he believed Catholics were at a “dead end” during the decades of abuse that have come to light in Germany since 2002 and that the current state of affairs could only be overcome by Church members taking responsibility for the abuses and efforts to cover them up.

“I think one possibility of expressing this willingness to take responsibility is my resignation. In doing so, I may be able to send a personal signal for a new beginning, for a new awakening of the Church, not only in Germany ”, wrote the cardinal in his letter, which was published by his archdiocese. “I would like to show that it is not the institution that is in the foreground, but the mission of the Gospel.

He added: “I therefore urge you to accept this resignation. “

The Archdiocese of Cardinal Marx, which was once ruled by Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, said Francis had agreed to allow the cardinal to make the letter public but asked him to continue in office until then. let him make a decision. The Vatican made no further comment on Friday.

The cardinal’s offer to resign comes at a time when the Pope is doubling down on his view that the sexual abuse crisis is primarily a consequence of imbalances in power dynamics between clerics and other church leaders and those who are theirs. entrusted, regardless of their age.

On Tuesday, the Vatican announced that Francis had made changes to the Vatican Code of Canon Law, the legal framework for the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics, after years of consultations.

As head of the German Bishops’ Conference, a position he held from 2014 to 2020, Cardinal Marx campaigned for a wider debate on reforms within the Church, including reconsideration of issues such than compulsory celibacy for priests.

The cardinal underscored his view that sharing responsibility for what he called “the catastrophe of sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades” also meant a willingness to discuss “reforms and renewal in the context of the sexual abuse crisis ”.

The cardinal is a particularly influential figure in the world church: he has was a member of Francis’ small advisory board.

The sexual abuse crisis exploded in Germany in 2010, when former students at a Berlin high school, Canisius College, said teachers abused them in the 1970s and 1980s. The crisis worsened in 2016, after an investigator said more than 200 boys from a choir led by Benedict XVI’s brother had been abused for nearly four decades.

Last week, the Vatican sent two high-ranking bishops to the Archdiocese of Cologne, the largest in Germany and one of the most powerful in the world Church, to investigate the Archbishop’s treatment of allegations of child sexual abuse at the hands of priests dating back to 1975.

The Archbishop of Cologne, Rainer Maria Woelki, tasked a lawyer to conduct an independent review of how the Catholic Church handled reports of abuse, only to rule it out on what he called methodological shortcomings . Second report reveals decades of ‘systematic cover-up’ in the hands of those responsible for the Church of the Archdiocese, including Stefan Hesse, who is now the Archbishop of Hamburg.

Archbishop Hesse offered his resignation to the Pope in March and has since been on leave of absence.

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