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Cardinal Rainer Woelki.

COLOGNE, Germany (LifeSiteNews) — The Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, has been accused of perjury in a case regarding his role in handling sexual abuse by a priest in his diocese and could face prison time if convicted. 

According to a report by the German public television broadcaster WDR, Woelki knew about allegations of sexual abuse against a priest he had promoted, contrary to statements he made under oath in a trial in March. 

Minutes of a conference with the deans of the Archdiocese of Cologne in September 2022 revealed that a letter Woelki had written in 2018 about the abuse allegations against a priest was discussed in the meeting. In this letter, the German cardinal informed the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about the accusations brought forward against the priest. The minutes furthermore revealed that Woelki reported the Vatican’s answer to the letter to the dean the next day. 

These revelations indicate that Woelki knew about the allegations. However, in April, the Archdiocese of Cologne claimed that Woelki, while he had indeed commissioned the letter, could not remember whether he had read it or not. 

In response to a recent request from Katholische Nachrichtenagentur (KNA), the archdiocese again stated that the archbishop could not remember having read the letter in detail. “Thus, Cardinal Woelki has testified in court exactly what he could remember.”  

WDR reported that the attorney general of Cologne, Ulf Willuhn, confirmed last week that he had expanded the investigation against the cardinal. The basis for this is the criminal complaint filed by a private individual. The senior public prosecutor said that there was already a preliminary investigation because of an accusation of a false affidavit in two cases. Now, an investigation into a third case of potential perjury will be opened. 

Under German criminal law, perjury is a crime that carries a prison sentence of at least one year. In less serious cases, the penalty is imprisonment from six months to five years. 

All the investigations regarding Woelki’s allegedly false statement under oath are linked to several lawsuits brought by Woelki against the German news outlet Bild. The tabloid newspaper had claimed in multiple reports that Woelki knew about the abuse cases. The German cardinal has won several cases against Bild. However, the newspaper is appealing the decisions. In each case, Woelki backed his position with sworn affidavits. 

Woelki is known as a more conservative German bishop and an opponent of the heretical German Synodal Way. 

READ: German cardinal criticizes ‘synodal path,’ exhorts German Church to ‘remain Catholic’ 

After public criticism regarding Woelki’s handling of the reappraisal of sexual abuse cases in his diocese had emerged, Pope Francis sent the German cardinal on a five-month retreat in 2021, and Woelki subsequently submitted his resignation. Francis has not decided whether to accept the resignation or not.