VIENNA ( - Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna took the unprecedented step on Thursday of apologizing for the actions of his predecessor, the disgraced Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer who was accused of molesting young men in the 1970s and 1980s.

      Cardinal Groer, 78, relinquished all ecclesiastical duties and privileges as an archbishop and cardinal on Tuesday and stated he will leave Austria, after he was asked to do so by Pope John Paul II. He had resigned as archbishop of Vienna in 1995 after the allegations first surfaced, but he has never clearly admitted or denied the charges. Cardinal Schoenborn, for his part, implicitly stated his belief that the charges were true. "As a bishop of this diocese, I apologize for everything by which my predecessor, and other church dignitaries, have wronged people entrusted to them," he said in a statement. "We in the Vienna archdiocese are prepared to offer help to all those who thus have suffered injury."

      Church officials said help, including funds for therapy, would be offered to the victims. Cardinal Schoenborn said he hoped Austrians would put the crisis behind them, and asked Catholics "to jointly follow the path of mutual trust in honesty, respect, and compassion."

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April 20, 1998 volume 9, no. 76         DAILY CATHOLIC