“Not an internal church matter alone”

Lower Saxony: Church and politics agree on cooperation © Julian Stratenschulte

The dioceses in Lower Saxony want to participate comprehensively in the legal processing of the abuse cases in the Catholic Church by the public prosecutor's offices. This was agreed by politicians and the church at a meeting.

Justice Minister Barbara Havliza announced that church representatives had given arances that the investigating authorities would have full access to necessary documents. First contacts with the public prosecutor's offices had already been established.

Bishop Heiner Wilmer of Hildesheim, Auxiliary Bishop Wilfried Theising of Oldenburg and Vicar General Theo Paul of Osnabruck, representing Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, who is ill, took part in the meeting at the guest house of the state government in Hanover. Havliza had invited to the meeting shortly after the presentation of the abuse study of the Catholic bishops in Germany.

Six preliminary proceedings initiated

According to information from the ministry, the diocese of Hildesheim already handed over documents to the responsible public prosecutor's office at the end of October. So far, six preliminary proceedings have been initiated. A further procedure is being examined. He also said the Osnabruck diocese is in communication with prosecutors about which cases are not yet known to the investigating authorities. An investigation was initiated, it was said. In the Oldenburg district, which belongs to the diocese of Munster, the public prosecutor's office in Munster and Oldenburg are also dealing with the ie. Here, too, proceedings have been instituted against unknown persons. Required documents would be disclosed.

Havliza stressed that coming to terms with the abuse cases should not be an internal church matter alone. She welcomed the church's willingness to clarify the matter. At the same time, the minister announced the establishment of a commission at the State Prevention Council (LPR) for the prevention of sexual abuse. As many forces in society as possible should be involved. Churches already have their own prevention facilities. These would be involved in the project, it was said.

Response to abuse study

At the end of September, the German Bishops' Conference had presented the results of a study it had commissioned on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. In church records from 1946 to 2014, a team of researchers had found evidence of nationwide 3.677 victims of sexual assault and to about 1.670 accused priests, deacons and religious found.

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