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Catholic priest 'didn't know 15 was under-age'

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Photo: DPA
16:54 CET+01:00
A German priest on trial in Norway for having sex with a 15-year-old girl claimed he did so because he did not know the country's legal age of consent was higher than Germany's.

“She was the love of my life,” the priest, who is in his early 30s, told the court on Tuesday. He added he “did not know the age of consent was 16 years old in Norway. In my home country of Germany it is 14."

"If I had been familiar with Norwegian law in this field, it would not have happened," he said. "When we started the relationship, I knew I broke the laws of the Church. I was not aware that I was also breaking Norwegian law." 

The relationship only came to light when the girl made a church confession she thought was confidential. Yet the church's pastor claims confidentiality did not apply, as the teenager was not a confirmed Catholic.

She called on the court not to condemn the priest when she gave evidence, saying he had not coerced her. "I do not think he has done anything wrong," she said.

The 15-year-old explained that she had been horrified when the man was charged following a confession she had made in church."I was assured that it was 100 percent confidential,” she told the court.

"I find it appalling that a girl of fifteen years should be guaranteed confidentiality, only for it not to apply because she is not Catholic," Yngvil Semb Hartmann, the girl's lawyer, told the court. 

The priest said that the relationship had developed from an innocent flirtation he began with the girl when he worked in a youth ministry for the Catholic Church in Bergen during the summer. 

"After an evening event, she waited for me in the sacristy," he told the court. "She was with me. We talked together and kissed each other. It was the first time we had sexual relations." 

The girl then messaged him on Snapchat, asking if he wanted to meet again, after which the relationship developed further. 

The priest faces six months in jail, one of them suspended, if found guilty of abusing the 15-year-old girl.

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