Germans leave Catholic Church by tens of thousands

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Pastor Dale Morgan

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Apr 14, 2010, 11:03:23 PM4/14/10
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Germans leave Catholic Church by tens of thousands


    * From correspondents in Berlin
    * From: AFP
    * April 15, 2010 4:34AM


GERMANY'S Roman Catholic Church is losing tens of thousands of members in its southern heartland in the wake of revelations about paedophile priests, the church and a media report said.

The diocese of Freiburg said it lost a huge number of  members in March, while thousands turned their backs on the Church in Rottenburg-Stuttgart, the Suedwest Presse newspaper said.

In Freiburg, the number was three times higher than in March 2009 after Pope Benedict XVI provoked a storm by cancelling the excommunication of four other bishops from the ultra-conservative Saint Pius X Society.

One of them was Briton Richard Williamson, who is due to go on trial in Germany on Friday for denying the Holocaust took place.

In Rottenburg-Stuttgart thoudands left the Church in February, in January 1011.

"We are watching this trend with concern, not so much because of the financial loss, but because he who leaves the Church, turns his back on the community of the faith," Fridolin Keck, the vicar general for the Freiburg diocese, said on its website today.

Germans normally pay a church tithe as part of their income tax but they may opt out if they relinquish their membership.

In common with other European countries, Pope Benedict XVI's homeland has been rocked in recent weeks by revelations of sexual abuse of children by priests at Church-run schools, mostly several decades ago.

Benedict has been accused of turning a blind eye to sexual abuse cases before he became pope and has not commented directly on the revelations in Germany, prompting anger in the Catholic community.

The pontiff, 82, has faced criticism over claims that, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he headed the Vatican's watchdog for morals and doctrinal issues, and earlier as the archbishop of Munich and Freising, he failed to take action against predator priests.

But a leading German cleric took exception to his compatriots' response to a pope in distress.

"I am ashamed of us German Catholics for the way we are treating the pope," said Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop of the western city of Cologne.

He said that if he were pope he would not pay a visit to Germany, but he added that Benedict XVI might say: "Just because you are attacking me, I will come."

Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger on April 16, 1927 in Bavaria, turns 83 on Saturday. He became pope nearly five years ago on April 19, 2005.
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