German cardinal to take legal action after police raid on his residence
COLOGNE, Germany (OSV News) -- Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki plans to take legal action after investigators searched his residence and other buildings of the Archdiocese of Cologne June 27, the KNA news agency reported.
"What bothers us is not the raid, but that the information and the date appear to have been leaked to the media," Cardinal Woelki's lawyer, Bjoern Gercke, told the German newspaper Die Zeit. In response, he planned to file a criminal complaint against unknown persons for a breach of confidentiality.
Some 30 police officers and four state prosecutors conducted the searches.
Gercke criticized the behavior of some media, saying journalists had already been waiting at the archbishop's door a half-hour before the investigators arrived. "We would have voluntarily provided everything the prosecution needed," the lawyer said.
Police and prosecutors in the German city of Cologne searched various premises of the Archdiocese of Cologne early June 27 as part of an investigation into Cardinal Woelki. The cardinal of Cologne is suspected of giving false testimony under oath in court, KNA reported.
Cardinal Woelki personally opened the gate to his residence to let the investigators in.
The prosecutor's office said properties in six locations were searched starting at 8 a.m. local time, four of them in Cologne and one each in Kassel and Lohfelden. The premises searched were the offices of the vicar general, the diocesan tribunal, the archbishop's house, as well as the offices of the archdiocese's IT email service provider.
"The measures are directed toward the investigation into a merely initial suspicion and in this respect toward the establishment of both incriminating and exonerating circumstances," the state prosecutor's office said. To avoid misinterpretation, the office clarified, "it is also explicitly pointed out that the accused is in no way charged with actively or even passively covering up or even participating in acts of abuse," KNA reported.
Cardinal Woelki personally opened the gate to his residence to let the investigators in. Numerous journalists and photographers who had lined up near the entrance before the search broadcasted the scene in the media.
Cardinal Woelki is defending himself against media reports claiming he was aware of allegations against a priest before reassigning him.
"By viewing business documents and emails of the archdiocese, it is to be determined whether the accusation made against Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of having committed a testimony-related offense can be proved or, on the contrary, disproved," the Archdiocese of Cologne said in a June 27 statement.
The question to be answered by the investigators is when Cardinal Woelki had gained knowledge of documents incriminating two priests who had sexual relations with minors.
Cardinal Woelki is defending himself against media reports claiming he was aware of allegations against a priest before reassigning him. The allegation concerned former leader of the Cologne carolers, Winfried Pilz.
The cardinal also denied previous knowledge in the case of the other priest, who had been transferred to a different diocese when he retired in 2012.
"Experience shows that it will take some time until the result is available," the archdiocese said, adding that "until then, we ask the public not to take an open-ended investigation as an opportunity" to prejudge the outcome.