The bishop currently administering the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Cologne acknowledged church failings in a large sex abuse scandal at a closed service in the German cathedral city on Thursday.
“A large number of crimes of sexual violence were perpetrated on wards of the church by priests and other church staff,” Sufragan Bishop Rolf Steinhaeuser said during a penance service held in Cologne Cathedral.
Steinhaeuser is currently deputizing for Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, who has taken a sabbatical following controversy over his decision not to publish a report on the abuse scandal.
While he was unable to apologise on behalf of the perpetrators of the abuse, he did not want to make the faithful jointly liable for their actions, Steinhaeuser said.
“This service does not end with forgiveness,” he stressed.
“We cannot absolve ourselves. We also do not ask the victims for forgiveness, so that we can feel better,” he said, describing the service, which was not open to the public, as an acknowledgement of guilt and commemoration of the victims.