“I ask for forgiveness for this”

Bishop Franz-Josef Bode © Hermann Pentermann

Osnabruck Bishop Franz-Josef Bode at Christmas acknowledged failures in dealing with a priest accused of abuse. There have been "serious omissions and mistakes on the part of the diocese".

Bode said this at the beginning of the Christmas service in Osnabruck Cathedral. After his retirement, the priest was even appointed temporary head of a parish and supporting priest – "signed by me," Bode added.

"I am painfully aware of this, and I ask for forgiveness and apology for it." The priest had been "guilty of serious sexual offenses that have left and continue to leave a wide trail of mischief in their wake," said Bishop. Only now would some victims have uncovered things and made them public. Others have been encouraged to break the silence as well.

No investigations because of statute of limitations

In mid-December, the diocese had made public the accusations against the now 85-year-old pastor. He is alleged to have sexually abused several children at his places of employment in the districts of Osnabruck and Emsland from the 1970s to the 1990s. Already in 1997, he had been prematurely retired by Bode due to rumors.

At the time, there were no reliable statements against him, it said. In the meantime, the clergyman, who was active in Merzen, Twist, Rhede and Dalum, had admitted the deeds. Bode imposed disciplinary measures against him. According to the diocese, all cases were also forwarded to the public prosecutor's office. We consider the acts to be punishable, but statute-barred. That is why there are no investigations, he said.

Church is not the light

In his homily, the bishop addressed the abuse cases. Especially in times of "shock over the misconduct, misdemeanors, even crimes of ecclesiastical persons" it is forbidden for the church "to want to seize the reality of the people in power and glory, in big words and clerical posturing.". Church could here only in humility the reference to the light give.

She herself is not the light. Bode called on the faithful to be encouraged by God's incarnation and his word. God has the greatness to "make himself small in order to make the little ones great". Let this message never go away, despite all the offenses of people in church and society.

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Christina Cherry
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