“We face up to the past”

Archbishop Hans-Josef Becker © Andreas Kuhlken (KNA)

Paderborn Archbishop Hans-Josef Becker has reaffirmed his will to come to terms with abuse cases in his archdiocese. "We face up to the past and will continue to do so consistently for the sake of those affected."

Becker said this at a meeting of the Council of Priests, according to a statement released Friday by the Archdiocese of Paderborn. "It's about people who have been victimized in the church, and thus about the credibility of the church."

Information on the research project

The archdiocese's intervention officer, Thomas Wendland, who was hired in January, provided information at the meeting about the ongoing research project at the University of Paderborn on sexual abuse.

"The researchers have unrestricted access to files, they conduct interviews with those affected, the archdiocese has no authority to ie directives, and the researchers themselves decide on the publication of their research results," explained he.

Independence is thus guaranteed. The goal of the project is to identify the groups of people in the archdiocese who knew about cases of abuse and to gain clarity about what measures they took or failed to take.

The four-year research project had started in August 2019. The study focuses on the terms of office of the two archbishops of Paderborn, Lorenz Jaeger and Johannes Joachim Degenhardt, i.e. the years from 1941 to 2002. The costs are borne by the archdiocese of Paderborn.

Looking at more recent past

In addition, in the future, the planned diocesan processing commission should take a look at the more recent past, Wendland continued. Currently, a statute on the basic mission and composition of the commission is in the works, he said. He said he is already in contact with possible members.

It has also been decided that the government of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia will nominate suitable experts as members. Wendland is also reported to be in the process of contacting possible members and planning the appointment procedure for the planned establishment of a victims' advisory council.

With the establishment of a processing commission and a victim advisory board, the archdiocese is implementing an agreement reached last year between the German Bishops' Conference and the federal government's abuse commissioner. It provides for the establishment of such bodies in all 27 German dioceses.

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