German Archbishop Heße's resignation declined by Pope Francis; SNAP sees this as a symptom of continuing scandal

The Apostolic Nunciature in Berlin announced yesterday that the resignation letter submitted in March, 2021, by Archbishop Stefan Heße has been denied by Pope Francis. The Archbishop of Hamburg had been under scrutiny in a Vatican investigation into his handling of abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Cologne. The German prelate was in charge of pastoral personnel in the Cologne Archdiocese from 2006 to 2012. He then worked as vicar-general from 2012 to 2015 before being ordained as Archbishop of Hamburg on March 14, 2015. 

The Apostolic Nunciature to Germany is an ecclesiastical office of the Roman Catholic Church in that country. We are shocked to read the statement from the Nunciature saying that “the basic problem” was a “lack of attention and sensitivity toward those affected by abuse” within the Cologne Archdiocese’s administrative apparatus. The nunciature said that the probe had found organizational deficiencies and procedural errors by the Archbishop, but that “the investigation did not show that these were committed with the intention of covering up cases of sexual abuse.” However, Archbishop Heße himself earlier acknowledged his responsibility for the failure of the system. We would now like to know exactly what the Archbishop considered his mistakes, especially since the Gercke report accused him of having neglected his duty in nine separate cases. It has been our experience that few hands are clean among Catholic officials.

We have also seen a pattern by Church leadership in issuing statements that minimize the responsibility of Catholic officials for the abuse itself, and for the impact their failures have had on those who are victimized. It appears to us that Pope Francis is showing his support for a fellow bishop, not for survivors, in this decision. Earlier this year, the Pope also declined the resignation of another German Church leader, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising.

Archbishop Heße has now thanked Pope Francis for placing his trust in him. We feel that the Archbishop should then have no qualms in confessing to the faith community and the public the exact mistakes he has admitted he made. In addition, the Archbishop should disclose the untold stories of the victims who have suffered irreparable harm as described in the 800-page report

CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President ([email protected], 814-341-8386), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected]), 

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is



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