The archbishop wrote to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops in November 2020 in connection with abuse cases that he reviewed while serving in Cologne archdiocese.
Heße said on Nov. 20: “Today I wrote to the prefect of the bishops’ congregation, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, and described the situation to him. I explained to him that I had always participated to the best of my knowledge and conscience in the processing of cases of sexual abuse in the archdiocese of Cologne and never in the cover-up of such cases.”
He continued: “The public debate about my time in Cologne, which has been going on for months, is not only a burden on me personally, but also on the Catholics in the archdiocese.”
“Out of concern for the Archdiocese of Hamburg, I therefore consider it my duty to inform the Roman authorities both of the current situation and of the investigation results from Cologne, which will be available in March.”
“To me, it is self-evident that I cannot be a judge in my own case, but that I ask the authority that appointed me to my office as archbishop for a review.”
The day before his statement, Heße announced that he would be temporarily stepping aside as a spiritual adviser to the Central Committee of German Catholics, the influential lay body known by its German initials, ZdK.
In June, Pope Francis declined the resignation of another German Church leader, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising.
The 67-year-old cardinal wrote to Pope Francis in May, offering to resign amid the fallout from the clerical abuse crisis in Germany.
Marx is a member of the pope’s Council of Cardinals and the coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy. Until last year, he served as the chairman of the German bishops’ conference.