Given the importance of Hengsbach as founding bishop, the uncertainty of believers in the Ruhr diocese of Essen is “incomparable to anything”. Bätzing has no doubts about the allegations against Hengsbach, who died in 1991, and which were only published last week. Other affected people would obviously come forward, which would further strengthen the suspicion. Bätzing called for comprehensive clarification – “everything has to be on the table”.

The members of the bishops’ conference also want to be informed about the case at their general meeting, which runs until Thursday. As a cardinal, Hengsbach is the highest-ranking cleric in Germany to be accused of his own acts of abuse.

The bishops’ conference meets in Wiesbaden until Thursday. This will also involve the continuation of the decisions of the synodal reform process and the preparation of the World Synod in Rome.

Bätzing also reiterated his criticism of the AfD shortly before the state elections in Bavaria and Hesse. “I am very convinced that the positions of the AfD and the positions of the Catholic Church are incompatible,” he said.

The AfD wants a xenophobic, anti-European, nationalist Germany. Parts of it are proven to be extremist. “We as the Catholic Church can only distance ourselves from this,” said Bätzing.