The new prevention officer of the Archdiocese of Cologne, Katja Birkner, said she was positive about the cooperation with the diocese leadership. “Child protection is a main concern of the Archdiocese,” she said in an interview with the Bonn General Gazette.
“I experience a great willingness to protect children and to ensure the child’s well-being.” Since November 1st, the Cologne Archdiocese has had the Prevention Unit, which emerged from the previous Prevention Coordination Unit and is headed by Birkner.
The qualified pedagogue describes herself as an “uncompromising child protector”. “All the resources” of the archdiocese are available to her for this: “Everything is being done and invested in so that people feel safe in our facilities.” She is also in communication with the diocese leadership.
New staff position as a consequence of the expert opinion
According to the Archdiocese, the establishment of the administrative department is a consequence of the report by the Gercke Wollschläger chancellery on sexual violence in the Archdiocese of Cologne presented in the spring and part of the eight-point plan of the diocese presented at the time. Birkner and her employees should further develop binding quality standards for prevention work at the NRW level and advise and provide technical support to the church legal entities and services in the Archdiocese of Cologne in the implementation of protective measures.
The results of the report weighed “very heavily on our shoulders,” according to Birkner. “That is why we have to prioritize the task of prevention. This is implemented in all professional groups.” Corresponding elements of prevention are also anchored in priestly formation. She also spoke with the person in charge of priestly formation about how these aspects could be strengthened.
Crisis of confidence in the Archdiocese of Cologne
The processing of abuse had led to a crisis of confidence in the Archdiocese of Cologne. Pope Francis had declared that Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki had made “big mistakes” in communication but did not want to cover up any crimes. The cardinal has been on a break since October that will last until the beginning of March. After that he will resume his service. Until then, Auxiliary Bishop Rolf Steinhäuser will head the Archdiocese.