Germany’s top Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has offered his resignation to the Pope over the Church’s child sexual abuse scandals.
“It is important to me to share the responsibility for the catastrophe of the sexual abuse by Church officials over the past decades,” he said in a letter to Pope Francis.
He is the Archbishop of Munich. The Pope is still considering his offer.
Pope Francis has sent two bishops to Cologne to investigate abuse cases.
In 2018, a study commissioned by the Church itself found that more than 3,600 children in Germany had been sexually assaulted by Roman Catholic priests between 1946 and 2014.
Only 38% of the alleged perpetrators were prosecuted, with most facing only minor disciplinary procedures. About one in six cases involved rape. Most of the victims were boys, and more than half were aged 13 or younger.
In his letter, Cardinal Marx said investigations in recent years had revealed “a lot of personal failure and administrative mistakes” but also “institutional or systemic failure” in relation to child sex abuse.
The statement in German on the Munich archbishop’s website says his letter was dated 21 May. The Pope has asked him to remain in his post pending a decision on his resignation offer.
Cardinal Marx said in his letter that the Church had come to “a dead end”. He said that with his resignation the Church could perhaps “make a fresh start, a new departure”.
“I want to show that it’s not the institution in the foreground, but the mission of the gospel.”
Cardinal Marx has a liberal reputation and has often called for reform of the Church, the BBC’s Damien McGuinness reports from Berlin.
The German Catholic Church has been rocked by allegations that some Church leaders covered up past child abuse. Conservative Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, Archbishop of Cologne, is particularly under fire, our correspondent says.
In March, Cardinal Woelki refused to resign, despite an independent report which revealed many breaches of duty by clerics in his Cologne Archdiocese. The report named more than 300 sexual abuse victims, after examination of Church records.
Cardinal Woelki has said he welcomes the Pope’s decision to send two bishops to investigate the handling of abuse allegations, and would support them in their work.
In March the cardinal said his resignation would have been “the easier path”. “By staying in office I’m taking on responsibility for what I have started in Cologne: unsparing full revelation.”
Around a quarter of the German population is registered in the Catholic Church. (BBC)