The Catholic Bishop of Essen, Franz-Josef Overbeck, unveiled a monument for his controversial predecessor, Cardinal Hengsbach, at a time when, according to his diocese, he was already aware of allegations of abuse against the clergyman, who died in 1991.

A diocese spokesman told the newspaper “Welt”: “Bishop Overbeck learned at the beginning of August 2011 that there was a suspicion of abuse against Cardinal Hengsbach in the Archdiocese of Paderborn, which was being investigated.” Overbeck was also personally informed in August 2011 about a second suspicious transaction report against Hengsbach, which was received in the diocese of Essen. A few months later, in October 2011, Overbeck unveiled a larger-than-life statue of Hengsbach next to Essen Cathedral.

Mayor: “I take the allegations very seriously”

The dioceses of Essen and Paderborn announced on Tuesday that they were investigating “serious” allegations of abuse against Hengsbach. Among other things, he is said to have abused a 16-year-old girl during his time as auxiliary bishop in Paderborn. He is also accused of another attack on a woman in Essen in 1967. The investigations are ongoing.

After the allegations of abuse were published, the city wants to rename Kardinal-Hengsbach-Platz in the city center. “I take the allegations very seriously,” said Essen Mayor Thomas Kufen yesterday when asked. The city’s further action will be closely coordinated with the diocese and the Vicariate General. “But it is also clear that Kardinal-Hengsbach-Platz in Essen will no longer be able to be called that,” said the CDU politician.

At the same time, a debate began about the Hengsbach monument in front of Essen Cathedral. The spokesman for the Advisory Board for those affected at the German Bishops’ Conference, Johannes Norpoth, and the Maria 2.0 reform initiative called for the monument to be removed on Wednesday.