FaithWorld

German govt calls Bundesbanker’s remarks about Muslims offensive

sarrazinGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel’s finance minister and spokesman have spoken out forcefully against disparaging comments about Muslim immigrants by a board member of the central bank, raising pressure on him to resign.

The Bundesbank’s Thilo Sarrazin, who has previously caused outrage with outspoken criticism of Turks and Arabs living in Germany, took aim at Muslims again in a new book which has been serialised in a popular daily newspaper this week. (Photo: Poster of Sarrazin at protest at the Bundesbank in Frankfurt against his anti-immigrant comments, October 13, 2009/Johannes Eisele)

Arguing that Muslims undermined German society, married “imported brides” and had a bad attitude, Sarrazin, a member of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), has provoked a storm of criticism from the country’s main political parties.

On Wednesday, Merkel’s chief spokesman Steffen Seibert said many people would find the remarks “offensive” and “defamatory”, and that the chancellor was concerned.  Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, a member of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), told reporters he “would be ashamed if a leading member of my party had behaved this way,” when asked about the 65-year-old Sarrazin’s comments.

He stressed, however, the central bank was independent.

Sarrazin has denied that he is stirring up racism. “I am not a racist,” he told Die Zeit. book addresses cultural divisions, not ethnic ones.”

Martin Luther statues have Wittenberg in a stir 500 years on

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About 800 colourful statues of 16th-century Protestant reformer Martin Luther are popping up in the eastern German town of Wittenberg, where Luther first railed against some practices of the Roman Catholic Church almost 500 years ago.

The one-metre high plastic figures in red, green, blue and black are the creation of the artist Ottmar Hörl and are intended to replace a statue of Martin Luther on the town square while it is being renovated.

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“My Luther looks just like the original, except for the feet,” Hörl told German press agency ddp.

German Lutheran bishop quits after report accuses her of sex abuse cover-up

jepsenThe world’s first female Lutheran bishop, Maria Jepsen of Germany, resigned on Friday following a report she had allowed a pastor accused of sexual abuse of teenagers in her diocese continued contact with youngsters. (Photo: Bishop Maria Jepsen announces her resignation in Hamburg July 16, 2010/Christian Charisius)

In an echo of scandals hitting the Catholic Church, Der Spiegel news magazine reported last week that Jepsen, 65, heard in 1999 that the pastor had abused teenagers in his care, but let him stay in contact with youngsters until 2000.

At a news conference, Jepsen, who has been bishop of Hamburg since 1992, did not say when she first heard the allegations, but said she felt her credibility was now in question.  “I no longer feel I am in a position to spread the Good Word as I promised at ordination and when I was made bishop,” she said.

Strong support to outlaw face veils as France prepares to vote ban

France’s plan to ban full face veils, which comes up for a vote in the National Assembly on Tuesday, enjoys 82% popular support in the country, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. Its neighbours also approve — 71% of those polled in Germany, 62% in Britain and 59% in Spain agreed that there should be laws prohibiting the Muslim veils known as niqabs and burqas in public. burqa 1(Photo: French woman fined for wearing a niqab while driving outside court in Nantes June 28, 2010/Stephane Mahe)

The poll, conducted from April 7 to May 8, did not range further afield, but reports from other countries show support there as well. The lower house of the Belgian parliament has voted for a ban, which should be approved by the Senate after the summer. In the Netherlands, several bills to ban full veils in certain sectors such as schools and public service are in preparation. Switzerland’s justice minister has suggested the cantons there should pass partial bans but make exceptions for visiting Muslim tourists (the wives of rich sheikhs visiting their bankers in Zurich or Geneva?)

The big exception in the Pew poll is the United States, where 65% of those polled disapprove of a ban and only 28% support the idea. The poll did not investigate the reasons for this difference, so we can only assume it has to do with the more widespread acceptance of religion in public life in the U.S. and a more open approach to immigration.

Disgraced German bishop stirs messy row with Catholic hierarchy

mixaA messy dispute has broken out in Germany’s Catholic Church after a bishop accused of abusing minors said his superiors had tricked Pope Benedict into retiring him and he might ask the Vatican to be reinstated.

Bishop Walter Mixa, who quit in April after admitting he had slapped children decades ago, said fellow bishops conspired to force him to tender his resignation and used a flimsy allegation of sexual abuse as a “trump card” to get Benedict to accept it. (Photo: Bishop Walter Mixa, 2 March 2009/Christian Charisius)

The bishops concerned flatly denied the accusations and hinted that Mixa, 69, who had stayed briefly in a psychiatric clinic after leaving his post in the Bavarian city of Augsburg, needed more rest and possibly more treatment.

German Jesuit report shows years of sexual abuse cover-up

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Canisius College, the Jesuit high school in Berlin, January 28, 2010/Fabrizio Bensch

A Jesuit investigation has cited 205 allegations of sexual abuse against priests at its schools in Germany, revealing decades of systematic abuse and attempts of a cover-up by the prestigious Roman Catholic order.  The new allegations threaten to further undermine the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, already accused of hushing up hundreds of sexual and physical abuse allegations in Church-run schools that have come to light recently.

“In the name of the order, I acknowledge with shame and guilt our failure,” Father Stefan Dartmann, Germany’s leading Jesuit official, said in a statement. “I ask for forgiveness.” The report also cited a further 50 allegations of abuse relating to other, mostly Catholic institutions.

Catholic sex abuse scandal fallout spreads in Europe

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Fallout from the Catholic child sex abuse scandal spread across Europe on Thursday as the Vatican retired an Irish bishop, a German offered to step down and prelates in England and Wales apologised for the “terrible crimes” of priests. 

The Vatican said Pope Benedict, under criticism from victims for not doing enough about past cases of abuse by priests now being revealed, had accepted the resignation of Bishop James Moriarty, the third Irish bishop to leave over the scandal. Pope Benedict meets ith Irish bishops at the Vatican February 15, 2010. A top Vatican official on Monday told Irish bishops in Rome for talks with Pope Benedict on the Irish church's vast paedophilia scandal that clergy who had sinned must admit blame for "abominable acts". The message came in the sermon of a mass in St Peter's Basilica shortly before the bishops began two days of crisis talks with the pope to formulate a response to the revelations of abuse by clergy that have shaken devoutly Catholic Ireland. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano

Pope Benedict meets Irish bishops at the Vatican February 15, 2010 to discuss the sexual abuse scandal/Osservatore Romano

Chronology of five years of Pope Benedict’s papacy

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Newly elected Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican, 19 April 2005/Kai Pfaffenbach

Pope Benedict marks five years as head of the Roman Catholic Church on Monday. Here is a chronology of major events since Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope on April 19, 2005.

2005

August 18-21 – Pope visits his native Germany for the World Youth Days in Cologne. While there, he visits a synagogue.

Nov. 29 – In a first major ruling of Benedict’s reign, the Vatican imposes restrictions on homosexuals becoming priests.

Pupils “sadistically tormented” at German Catholic monastery

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Ettal monastery, March 3, 2010/Johannes Eisele

Children were “sadistically tormented and also sexually abused” at a Catholic monastery in Pope Benedict’s native Bavaria, according to a new report commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church.

A lawyer investigating accusations of abuse in a Benedictine monastery school in Ettal presented a final report to the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising on Monday, including 173 pages of victims’ accounts of abuse.

“My investigations quite clearly show that for decades up until around 1990, children and adolescents were brutally abused in the Ettal monastery,” Thomas Pfister said in a statement.  “The number of victims’ accounts has increased significantly since the intermediary report of March 5,” added Pfister, who said last month that hundreds of pupils had been beaten and some sexually abused at the school.

German Catholic Church sexual abuse hotline flooded with calls

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Trier Bishop Stephan Ackermann launches hotline on March 30, 2010. Text reads : "victims of sexual abuse"/Johannes Eisele

A German hotline for victims of sexual abuse by clerics was deluged with thousands of calls in the week after the Roman Catholic Church launched the counseling service in a bid to restore trust.

Some 13,293 people attempted to call the hotline over the course of the first week but only 2,670 were able to connect with the overwhelmed 11 counselors on duty, church officials said.