Pope Francis wrote an extensive letter to Catholics in Germany in 2019. Addressing what he called the “erosion” and “decline of the faith” in the country, he called on the faithful to convert, pray, and fast, as well as proclaim the Gospel.
The pope referred to the letter in his conversation with the editors.
“I wrote it myself, and it took me a month to write it. I did not want to involve the curia. I did it by myself.”
“The original is Spanish and the one in German is a translation. That is where you will find my thoughts,” he said.
The future of Cologne archdiocese
Pope Francis also discussed the future of the embattled German Cardinal Rainer Woelki, who has faced intense pressure to step down as head of the Cologne archdiocese.
In September 2021, the pope confirmed Woelki in the post after an apostolic visitation of the archdiocese and permitted him to take a period of leave. When the 65-year-old cardinal returned in March this year, the archdiocese announced that he had submitted his resignation.
The pope said: “When the situation was very turbulent, I asked the archbishop to go away for six months, so that things would calm down and I could see clearly. Because when the waters are rough you cannot see clearly.”
“When he returned, I asked him to write a letter of resignation. He did and he gave it to me. And he wrote a letter of apology to the diocese. I left him in his place to see what would happen, but I have his resignation in hand.”
Pope Francis went on: “What is happening is that there are a lot of pressure groups, and under pressure it is not possible to discern. Then there is an economic issue for which I am considering sending a financial team. To be able to discern, I am waiting until there is no pressure.”
“The fact that there are different points of view is fine. The problem is when there is pressure. That does not help. I do not think Cologne is the only diocese in the world where there are conflicts, though. I treat it like any other diocese in the world that experiences conflict. I can think of one where the conflict has not yet ended: Arecibo in Puerto Rico has been in conflict for years. There are many dioceses like that.”
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Pope Francis removed Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres of Arecibo from office in March. The bishop, who had led the diocese since 2010, described the decision as “totally unjust.”