“Take those affected seriously”

In the diocese of Osnabruck there have been 28 indications of cases of abuse in the past decades. They referred to 21 people, including 16 clergy of the diocese. The diocese now communicated this interim result.

The occasion was the introduction of the new contact person for abuse cases, former district court president Antonius Fahnemann. The cases were spread over a period of seven decades, it said.

This says nothing about the number of victims; it can also not be determined, according to the legal advisor of the diocese, Ludger Wiemker. 19 applications for material recognition of suffering were filed according to the information provided by victims. Of these, two had been dismissed. In the other cases, amounts between 1.000 and 10.000 euros have been paid out.

One or two reports per year

Predominantly, according to the information, the references refer to cases in which the accused are deceased. In addition to 16 clergymen of the diocese, three other church employees were accused, as well as two clergymen who had belonged to the archdiocese of Hamburg for some time. The Hamburg archdiocese had been refounded in 1995 mainly from parts of the Osnabruck diocese.

One or two people a year report to her, said Irmgard Witschen-Hegge, a gynecologist who has been the second contact person for abuse cases since 2002. In addition to sexual abuse, there is evidence of violence and psychological abuse. An important concern of those affected, he said, is always the desire to be heard and taken seriously. Many wanted the perpetrators to be held accountable, for others an apology from the perpetrator was enough. Even events that happened long ago often still lead to conflicts in the everyday lives of those affected today.

Penitential act of Bishop Bode important beyond the region

Fahnemann and Witschen-Hegge emphasized the supra-regional significance of the public act of penance by Osnabruck's Bishop Franz-Josef Bode in 2010. The latter had asked for forgiveness for the church by lying down on the floor in front of the altar in the cathedral and remaining there for minutes in silence.

Fahnemann also made it clear that the contact persons are bound by the duty of confidentiality. However, those affected would be informed at the beginning of the talks that the information would then be passed on to the criminal prosecution authorities and church committees in any case, if further victims could not be ruled out.

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Christina Cherry
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