(Reuters) – Germany’s Roman Catholic Church made mistakes by failing to help victims of sexual abuse by clergy and that has shaken it, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch said on Friday.
World | Germany
The leader of the Catholic Church in Germany said he hoped Good Friday could “be a new start for the Church that is so urgently needed” after a spate of reports of past sexual and physical abuse of children.
Zollitsch said the abuse filled the Church “with sorrow, horror and shame… The pain inflicted upon victims, who were often unable to express in words their suffering for many years” has shaken the Church, he said.
“Wounds were opened that can hardly be healed any more. Today the Church is conscious that, in a different societal situation, it did not do enough to help the victims due to disappointment over the painful failings of the perpetrators and due to falsely understood concerns about the Church’s image.”
Zollitsch said the Church had to come to terms with the reality no matter how much it hurts.
He said there would be special Good Friday prayers for the victims — “to those in the middle of God’s people in the church community to whom a great injustice was done, who were abused and whose bodies and souls were hurt.”
More than 250 people in Germany were abused at Church-run schools in past decades. The scandal has drawn in Bavarian-born Pope Benedict, whose brother ran a Regensburg choir for 30 years which has been linked to cases of abuse.
Zollitsch apologized last month for mistakes he made himself in failing to turn over one case of suspected abuse by a priest to state prosecutors when he was in charge of human resources in the Freiburg diocese nearly 20 years ago.
Instead, Zollitsch sent the priest into early retirement.
Zollitsch said he only confronted the priest years later after a witness came forward with evidence and he told him the diocese planned to take the case to state prosecutors. The ex-priest committed suicide.
The Roman Catholic Church in Germany opened a hotline for victims of child abuse on Tuesday, following the lead of Ireland, Austria and the Netherlands.
The abuse scandal could hurt Church membership, according to a Forsa survey for Stern magazine. It showed 19 percent of Germany’s estimated 25 million Catholics were thinking about leaving the Church in the wake of the abuse scandal.
(Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Janet Lawrence)