Pope rejects German archbishop's resignation after abuse scandal

Pope Francis speaks to the media on board an Alitalia aircraft enroute from Bratislava's Milan Rastislav Stefanik International airport in Bratislava, Slovakia, back to Rome, September 15, 2021. Tiziana Fabi/Pool via REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - Pope Francis has rejected the resignation of the Archbishop of Hamburg who had offered to step down after a report named him among several senior officials in Germany's Catholic Church to have breached their duty in handling sexual abuse cases.

In a statement, the Vatican said it had thoroughly examined documents relating to the archbishop, Stefan Hesse, formerly head of personnel and administration at the Cologne archdiocese.

While it had identified deficiencies in the organisation of his office and personal procedural errors, it had not found any intention to cover up abuse, the Vatican said in a statement posted on the German Bishops' Conference website.

"The basic problem, in the larger context of the administration of the archdiocese, was the lack of attention and sensitivity towards victims of abuse," it said.

The archbishop offered to resign in March after the publication of an 800-page report into the handling of abuse cases in the archdiocese of Cologne which found more than 200 abusers and more than 300 victims between 1975 and 2018.

"In view of the fact that the Archbishop recognises mistakes he made in the past with humility and offered his resignation, the Holy Father has ... decided not to accept the resignation," said the Vatican.

Bishops have said that a row over the report into abuse in the Cologne archdiocese, which has the largest membership of any diocese in the German-speaking world, is damaging the Catholic Church across the country.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers, Editing by William Maclean)

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