A statue of a deceased German cardinal has been removed from its perch outside the cathedral in Essen, western Germany, days after allegations of sexual abuse were made public there several decades ago.
ByThe Associated Press
September 25, 2023, 4:52 a.m.
BERLIN– A statue of a deceased German cardinal was removed from its perch outside the cathedral in Essen, western Germany, on Monday, days after allegations of sexual abuse were made public there several decades ago.
The accusations against Cardinal Franz Hengsbach, who died in 1991, add to a long-running scandal over clergy abuse that has rocked the German Church.
Last week, the diocese of Essen said there were suspicions that Hengsbach may have abused a 16-year-old girl in the 1950s, when he was an auxiliary bishop in the nearby town of Paderborn, and that a woman had also accused him of abusing her in 1967 when he was bishop of Essen — a position he held for 33 years.
In a letter to parishes published on Friday, current bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck apologized for his errors in handling the allegations.
He said he learned of an accusation in 2011 and did nothing after the Vatican determined it was not plausible. “I must now admit that the charges were misjudged in 2011 and that those involved were wronged,” he wrote. Another allegation brought to Overbeck’s attention in March prompted church officials to reexamine the matter.
The diocese decided Friday to remove the larger-than-life statue of Hengsbach, unveiled in 2011. On Monday morning, a crane lifted it onto a truck, German news agency dpa reported. It must be stored.
In 2018, a report commissioned by the Church concluded that at least 3,677 people were abused by clergy in Germany between 1946 and 2014. More than half of the victims were 13 or younger, and nearly a third were altar boys.