Vatican Financial Investigation Exonerates Cardinal Woelki

The Vatican believes Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki and his vicar general, Msgr. Markus Hofmann, who did not violate canon law in their funding of investigations and hiring communications consultants, reported the German Catholic news agency KNA.

Newsroom (10/05/2022 1:30 PM Gaudium Press) Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, wrote Woelki that after an “in-depth study,” the Vatican determined the financial institutions of the archdiocese did not need to be involved in the decision to spend 2.8 million euros from an episcopal fund. Journalists were given access to the letter on May 3.

The decision comes as a relief to the crisis-hit leadership of the archdioceseKNA reported.

After accusations of the mishandling of priests accused of sex abuse, Woelki took a sabbatical from October 2021 to March 2022. His interim replacement, Bishop Rolf Steinhäuser, asked two church law experts to review the awarding of contracts to lawyers and communications consultants involved in producing reports on the abuse. There was a suspicion that the property council and the cathedral chapter should have been involved in the decision under canon law.

KNA reported that Ouellet’s letter said the episcopal fund, set up in 1952 by Cardinal Josef Frings of Cologne, was “not bound by the founder’s will.” Therefore, Cologne archbishops were authorized to dispose of these financial means freely. There was no legal obligation to involve the diocesan bodies, as the assets were not diocesan.

Woelki voiced relief and spoke of “good news” from Rome. He hoped this would contribute “a little to calming things down in our archdiocese.”

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The communications agency, which alone cost 820,000 euros, had been called in by the archdiocese because of problems affecting its media department at the time, KNA reported. However, the archdiocesan leadership had failed to arrange a lump-sum contract or to set a time limit for the consultancy.

The episcopal fund consists of contributions from priests’ salaries from 1952 to 1969. According to the archdiocese, 16.8 million euros were still in the fund at the end of 2020, 9.5 million euros less than at the end of 2019.

Among other uses, abuse victims also receive church funds in recognition of their suffering because neither church tax funds nor diocesan assets are to be used for this purpose, KNA reported.

In 2019, Woelki signed a statute for the fund defining its purpose as “the ideal and material promotion of special ecclesiastical needs and concerns in the Archdiocese of Cologne.” The archdiocese has several special funds, which totalled 221.1 million euros at the end of 2020.

(Via Crux Now)

Compiled by Raju Hasmukh

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