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More than 250 Catholic priests suspected of abuse in Germany

In the Archdiocese of Freiburg in the southwestern German state of Baden-Wurtemberg, more people have been affected by sexual violence by clergy than was previously officially known.

It is now assumed that there are more than 540 victims, said the chairman of a reappraisal commission, Magnus Striet on Tuesday during a live press conference in Freiburg.

In addition, there are more than 250 accused clerics, according to the study.

Striet, however, said the numbers must be viewed with great caution, as reported cases are probably considerably larger.

Striet’s comments came at the presentation of the report on sexual abuse in the Freiburg archdiocese. Spread over 600 pages, the investigation analyzes on the basis of more than 20 cases how church officials dealt with victims and perpetrators, and which structures favored abuse.

The investigative commission with four external experts from the judiciary and criminal investigation department has been working since 2019, it evaluated about 1,000 protocols of the archdiocese and conducted a total of more than 400 interviews.

The investigation focuses primarily on the late Archbishop Oskar Saier and the still-living Archbishop Emeritus Robert Zollitsch, who was also the president of the German Bishops’ Conference from 2008 to 2014.

In the case of both, there are indications of cover-ups, according to the investigation. For example, pastors were immediately given leave of absence or suddenly gave up parishes. Reasons for these personnel changes were presumably deliberately not recorded.

In addition, Eugen Endress, a member of the investigative commission, spoke at the press conference of an “anticipated cover-up.” The archbishop had completely refused to cooperate with law enforcement agencies. There had been “consensual cooperation” between the personnel officer and the archbishop in dealing with the documentation.

During his own term as archbishop from 2003 to 2013, Zollitsch had completely ignored canon law in connection with abuse cases, Endress added.

Zollitsch had been investigated by the Constance public prosecutor’s office in 2010 on charges of complicity in an abuse case in the archdiocese. Zollitsch published a personal statement last year on dealing with sexualized violence. It is entitled “I expressly acknowledge my guilt.”

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