The Catholic Cathedral of Limburg in Hesse, Germany. / Mylius via Wikimedia (GFDL 1.2).

Limburg, Germany, Jun 13, 2022 / 11:30 am (CNA).

The rector of a German Catholic seminary was found dead last week in an apparent suicide.

Father Christof May had been removed the day before from all his offices by Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg.

Bätzing, the current chairman of the German bishops’ conference, reportedly took the step due to allegations of abusive behavior.

May’s death was first communicated internally within the Diocese of Limburg on June 9. CNA Deutsch, the Catholic News Agency’s German-language news partner, obtained a copy of the email.

It said: “We are devastated and full of grief. Christof May was questioned yesterday in a personal conversation about allegations of abusive behavior. Subsequently, Bishop Georg Bätzing had removed him from all offices in order to be able to review and investigate the allegations.”

“The death of Christof May affects us all. We have lost a committed and much-appreciated pastor.”

On June 10, the Limburg diocese publicly confirmed the death, but did not provide more details.

The German newspaper Frankfurter Neue Presse reported that the 49-year-old rector left a suicide note, which led to a search effort involving police, firefighters, and members of the German Red Cross. His body was found in a forest on the morning of June 9 after a police helicopter spotted his car nearby.

A senior prosecutor confirmed to the paper that there were “no indications of external causes or a criminal act that led to the death.”

Bishop Bätzing was recently criticized for promoting a priest who was accused of sexual misconduct by two women. Bätzing learned about the issue after he was made bishop of the Diocese of Limburg in 2016 and met with both victims.

“Bätzing made it unmistakably clear that he disapproved of the priest’s behavior,” the diocese said. “He issued a monitio, an admonition in written form.” It added that the priest “asked for forgiveness, and showed credible remorse.”

Bätzing made the priest a district dean in 2020, which eventually led to the two victims going public with their accusations. In response, the priest decided to step down from his position as district dean.

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