Pope Francis, Heiko Maas discuss sensitive issues in a private audience

Photo: EPA

In the first private audience of a German foreign minister with pope in almost 20 years, Heiko Maas on Wednesday discussed with Pope Francis many issues as the latest flare-up in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the coronavirus pandemic, the future of the EU and Germany's Latin America policy and also the sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, dpa reported.

German minister had said before meeting Francis that he wanted to talk about the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. In March, an 800-page report looking onto the archdiocese of Cologne threw the issue into the spotlight in Germany. It found that, between 1975 and 2018, 202 people within the archdiocese were suspected of involvement in abuse, and that 63% of those accused were clerics.

A number of bishops and other church officials were suspended or offered their resignation in the wake of the release of the report, which also cited negligence on part of the archdiocese's leadership when dealing with abuse allegations. Maas declined to say what the pope had to say about the sex abuse scandals.

Maas gave Pope Francis a piece of the Berlin Wall.  "How much suffering there, right?", the pope said receiving the gift. He gave Maas a bas-relief sculpture of Noah along with a message. "Seek a way of salvation for Nature and for each person".

In 2003, then-German foreign minister Joschka Fischer met with Pope John Paul II. Maas is Catholic and served as an altar boy for almost seven years as a child, dpa noted.

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