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6 Jan, 2021 17:13

'Absolute silence': Journalists asked to sign confidentiality agreement over report into child abuse by German Catholic Church

'Absolute silence': Journalists asked to sign confidentiality agreement over report into child abuse by German Catholic Church

Journalists in the German city of Cologne have walked out of a press conference after Catholic Church officials asked them to sign a confidentiality agreement pledging their silence over an unpublished report into child abuse.

The Archdiocese of Cologne organized the event to discuss the methodology of the report, which Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki said was the reason it had still not been released to the public, according to Deutsche Welle.

The eight journalists invited to the briefing were shown a redacted version of the document and asked by church officials to remain silent on information regarding the alleged abusers and their crimes.

All attendees reportedly rejected requests to sign the confidentiality agreement, which apparently read: "The journalist commits himself to exercise absolute silence regarding this information."

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Woelki has been accused of a cover-up by not informing the Vatican about a sexual abuse allegation involving a priest dating back to 2014, after Woelki became Archbishop of Cologne.

He initially promised a report into abuse allegations in Cologne in 2018, but he delayed its release at the end of October, saying it was "not legally valid," contained prejudices, and had issues with regards to its methodology.

"Serious mistakes were repeatedly made for decades," Woelki admitted in November, as he accused two of his predecessors, Joseph Hoffner and Joachim Meisner, of covering up sexual abuse in Cologne.

A local criminal law expert, Bjorn Gercke, has reportedly now been asked to compile a new report for release in March.

Munich law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl, which had been handling the report, has denied Woelki's allegations that it was not methodologically sound.

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