Werner Freistetter, new apostolic administrator of the diocese of Gurk, Austria

Pope takes reins of Austrian diocese hit by bishop’s sex, financial scandals

Pope Francis on Friday named an apostolic administrator to the troubled Austrian diocese of Gurk, shaken in recent years by claims of sexual and financial scandals.

For the record

“The Holy Father Francis has decided to entrust the pastoral care of the diocese of Gurk, Austria, to Bishop Werner Freistetter, military ordinary in Austria”, stated interim spokesman of the Holy See, Alessandro Gisotti.

“The discernment of the Holy See regarding the complex situation that emerged from the apostolic visit to the diocese of Gurk is still underway”, added the Vatican representative.

Why it matters

The previous administrator of the Gurk diocese, Msgr. Engelbert Guggenberger, released a report last December that detailed “massive public accusations” of financial misconduct by Bishop Alois Schwarz, who had led the local Church for 17 years until he resigned in May 2018.

Guggemberger revealed that Bishop Schwarz had allowed a woman to “damage the reputation of the episcopal office and the Church in Carinthia.”

The prelate added that Schwarz had made himself “open to blackmail by his priests in the context of the obligation of living in celibacy”.

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