The Holy See noted that the pope and Woelki had “a long conversation” in September 2021.
“The Holy Father is counting on Cardinal Woelki, acknowledging his loyalty to the Holy See and his concern for the unity of the Church,” it said.
“At the same time, it is obvious that the archbishop and the archdiocese need a time of pause, renewal, and reconciliation. This has prompted Pope Francis to grant Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, at his own request, a period of spiritual leave, beginning in mid-October until the start of Lent next year.”
Woelki is not the only German archbishop who has offered to resign.
Archbishop Stefan Heße of Hamburg offered to step down in March 2021, requesting an “immediate release” from all duties. Pope Francis declined his resignation last September.
The German prelate was in charge of pastoral personnel in the Cologne archdiocese from 2006 to 2012. He served as vicar general from 2012 to 2015, before being ordained as archbishop of Hamburg on March 14, 2015.
In June 2021, Pope Francis declined the resignation of another German Church leader, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising. Marx wrote to Pope Francis in May 2021, offering to resign amid the fallout from the clerical abuse crisis in Germany.
After the pope declined his resignation, Marx said that he wouldn’t rule out presenting his resignation for a second time.
Cologne archdiocese said on Wednesday: “Today, the cardinal would like to express his gratitude for the supportive prayers, the encouragement, and the many letters, emails, and postcards of support from within the Archdiocese of Cologne and from abroad.”
“The cardinal would also like to thank all those who have taken responsibility in the archdiocese in the past weeks and months,” it added.
This article was corrected on March 3 to clarify that Cardinal Woelki has submitted his resignation for the first time and not a second, as previously stated.
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