Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne has canceled his first public appearance after a break of almost five months.

The cardinal will not appear for the service on Ash Wednesday, March 2, in Cologne Cathedral, the Archdiocese of Cologne announced on Monday.

Woelki does not want "this valuable event to be overshadowed by the current church-political tensions".

However, the archbishop announced a Lenten pastoral letter and media release for his return on March 2.

Last weekend it was already known that Woelki will be represented by the current interim administrator and auxiliary bishop Rolf Steinhäuser at an ecumenical prayer service in Düsseldorf on March 5th - i.e. after the planned end of his sabbatical.

The cardinal has been on a "spiritual break" since October.

Above all, the processing of cases of abuse had led to a crisis of confidence in Germany's diocese with the largest number of members in the past few months.

After an investigation, Pope Francis said that Woelki had made "big mistakes" in this regard, especially in communication, but did not want to cover up any crimes.

Steinhäuser has been in charge of the archbishopric as interim administrator since October.

Most recently, various bodies in the archdiocese expressed some skepticism or rejection of Woelkis' return.

On Ash Wednesday, the Catholic Church begins Lent before Easter.

Then a cross of ashes is traditionally distributed in the services.

In several cathedrals - including Cologne Cathedral - this day is dedicated to the encounter between church and art.

With his rejection, Woelki wanted to "protect the artists, whom he values ​​very much, from further polarization", according to the archdiocese. At first it was unclear whether Steinhäuser would lead the service in the cathedral.

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