Pope Francis told Bishop Bätzing: We don’t need two evangelical churches in Germany

Pope Francis wrote a lengthy letter to Catholics in Germany in 2019. Addressing what he called the “erosion” and “decline of faith” in the country, he called on the faithful to convert, pray and fast, and proclaim the gospel.

The pope referenced the letter in his conversation with the editors.

“I wrote it myself, and it took me a month to write it. I didn’t want to involve the curia. I did it all alone.”

“The original is Spanish and the one in German is a translation. This is where you will find my thoughts,” he said.

The future of the Archdiocese of Cologne

Pope Francis also discussed the future of embattled German Cardinal Rainer Woelki, who has faced intense pressure to step down as head of the Archdiocese of Cologne.

In September 2021, the pope confirmed Woelki in the post after an apostolic visitation to the archdiocese and allowed him to take leave. When the 65-year-old cardinal returned in March this year, the archdiocese announced he had tendered his resignation.

The Pope said: “When the situation was very turbulent, I asked the Archbishop to leave for six months, so that things would calm down and I could see clearly. Because when the waters are choppy, you can’t see clearly.

“When he came back, 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 it at his place to see what would happen, but I have his resignation in hand.

Pope Francis continued: “What happens is that there are a lot of pressure groups, and under pressure it is not possible to discern. Then there is an economic problem for which I plan to send a financial team. To be able to discern, I wait until there is no more pressure.

“The fact that there are different points of view is good. The problem is when there is pressure. It doesn’t help. However, I don’t think Cologne is the only diocese in the world where there are conflicts. I treat it like any other diocese in the world that experiences conflict. I can think of a case where the conflict is not over yet: Arecibo in Puerto Rico has been in conflict for years. There are many dioceses like that.

(Story continues below)

Pope Francis removed Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres of Arecibo from his post in March. The bishop, who has led the diocese since 2010, called the decision “totally unfair”.

Barry F. Howard