The German Catholic Bishops' Conference has chosen one of its own to lead investigations into the cases of abuse in the German Church in the 70s and 80s. The news was announced at the conclusion of the plenary assembly of German bishops on Thursday by conference president Archbishop Robert Zollitsch.
Vatican Radio reported that the bishops' statement read, "We German bishops accept our responsibility and condemn the crimes committed by religious, priests and lay collaborators in our dioceses."
"Mortified and shocked," they asked the pardon and forgiveness of "all victims of these horrible acts."
Vatican Radio also reported that the secretary of the episcopal conference has opened an office in Bonn to coordinate activities and collaborate in legal proceedings. They are planning a "phone-a-friend" program that will soon be in place to provide further assistance to victims.
Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier is now in charge of the operation. He is also the President of the episcopal conference's Commission for Justice and Peace.
About 120 victims have come forward to date. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that, in the first legal action since news of the abuses came to light, prosecutors have now begun investigations into allegations at two German Catholic schools.
The Washington Post also reported that Abbot Barnabas Boegle, head of the Ettal Monastery which oversees one of the two schools, stepped down Wednesday after eight former students alleged abuses there by priests.
By August, Church guidelines governing cases of child sex abuse will be revised and updated. "We want everything to be clarified loyally, without false restraints," said Archbishop Zollitsch. "The victims have a right to that." The current norms have been in place since 2002.
To work towards "full prevention," the archbishop also mentioned the need for a more attentive culture within schools and pastoral ministries, as well as proper formation for future priests.