Prosecutors to investigate possible perjury charge against German cardinal

FILE PHOTO: Cologne Cardinal reacts to abuse scandal

BERLIN (Reuters) - German prosecutors are due to investigate whether Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, one of the German Catholic Church's most senior clerics, perjured himself earlier this year in sworn testimony about abuse committed by a now dead priest.

The Archbisopric of Cologne confirmed on Wednesday that they had been informed about the planned investigation into Woelki's testimony in August, in which he had denied earlier knowledge of the abuse by priest Winfried Pilz, who died in 2019.

Allegations that the Church failed to react when it had knowledge of abuse such as that committed by Pilz, who headed a Catholic children's charity, have pitched into deep crisis a national church which, by virtue of its wealth, has outsize influence on the Catholic Church globally.

The inquiry is being launched in response to a joint investigation by German public radio and the magazine "Christian and World", who found a document in which a person with knowledge of abuses had been invited to brief Woelki on them in May. Woelki said he had first learned of them in June.

"This renewed attempt to accuse Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of perjury is unfounded," the Archbisopric said in its statement, adding that even if someone had come to the archdiocese with a list of names, there was no guarantee that the Cardinal had seen them.

Woelki, who was suspended from work to engage in spiritual reflection over failures in dealing with the abuse scandal, earlier this year offered his resignation to the Pope, an offer on which Rome has yet to take a decision.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Alex Richardson)