• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Praise and anger for Merkel's pope criticism

AFP/DDP/The Local · 4 Feb 2009, 19:43

Published: 04 Feb 2009 19:43 GMT+01:00

Merkel said on Tuesday the pope's move could not be allowed to pass "without consequences" and called on the Vatican to "clarify unambiguously that there can be no denial" that the Nazis killed six million Jews.

Apparently aware of the growing outrage in Germany directed at the Bavarian pontiff, the Vatican on Wednesday called on the bishop – British-born Richard Williamson – to distance himself "unequivocally" from his claims the Nazi gas chambers never existed and that only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews had been killed in the Nazi concentration camps.

Merkel's unusual decision to become embroiled in the row prompted warm praise from Jewish groups, the media and even some bishops in Germany.

Stephan Kramer, general-secretary of the German Jewish Council, said the issue goes beyond religion.

"This underlines one more time she is very sensitive about it but it underlines also ... that the issue is no longer just an internal Catholic or an internal religious issue. This goes well beyond this," Kramer said in an interview with news agency AFP.

In an opinion article in for The Local this week, Kramer denounced the papal decision to rehabilitate Williamson a "scandal" that was more than just a simple misunderstanding.

"There should be no place in the Catholic Church for members of the clergy seeking to play down “Final Solution” or even question that it ever took place," Kramer wrote.

Merkel also won widespread praise in the German press.

Her comments were "an unusual, even spectacular political intervention in the pope's core business," wrote the left-wing Tageszeitung daily. "And – it was necessary."

The Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung said in an editorial: "Angela Merkel, the Christian Democratic chancellor, is right. We need a crystal-clear explanation from Rome. Disappointment with this pope is growing."

Sensationalist daily Bild blamed not the pope himself, but whomever advised him to lift Williamson's excommunication. "Holy Father. I prayed for you yesterday in my favourite church ... I have no grudge against you or against God. But I also prayed that God punish all your staff."

Even some Catholic leaders in Germany, where denying the Holocaust took place is illegal, also backed Merkel.

Bishop Georg Sterzinsky told Bild that "denying the Holocaust is monstrous and a strain on relations with the Jewish community."

Story continues below…

The decision to lift Williamson's excommunication is "an action I do not think was correct. It must be put right," Sterzinsky said, adding if the Vatican has made a mistake, it should apologise, he added.

However, Benedict was not without his defenders in Germany, including his brother, Georg Ratzinger, also a priest.

"He doesn't need me to defend him. But it does annoy me how stupid and ill-informed several people are that are attacking him," he said in an interview to appear in Thursday's edition of the Leipziger Volkszeitung.

Others leapt even more vigorously to his defence. Another German bishop, Gregor Maria Hanke, was quoted by German newsmagazine Focus as saying Merkel's lashing-out at the pope was "incomprehensible and outrageous."

And Augsburg’s Bishop Walter Mixa – no stranger to controversy himself after referring to women as "birthing machines" a few years ago – accused Merkel of a "political and diplomatic mistake" and said the pope "didn’t need any extra lessons from the German leader."

AFP/DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Today's headlines
Deutsche Bahn jacks up prices for first time in 3 years
Photo: DPA

Germany's main rail provider, the state-owned Deutsche Bahn (DB), announced on Friday that it will raise prices on long-distance train travel.

Baby found alive in suitcase with skeleton in Hanover
File photo: DPA.

A baby has been found alive, along with the skeleton of another infant inside of a suitcase in Hanover, police reported on Friday.

Morocco to speed up repatriation of illegal migrants
Photo: DPA

Morocco has agreed to streamline the procedures for the repatriation of citizens living illegally in Germany, the royal court said late on Thursday.

890,000 refugees arrived in Germany last year - not 1.1m
Photo: DPA

Previous reports had suggested that around 1.1 million people entered Germany to seek asylum last year. But now the German government has confirmed the number was actually lower.

Racist attacks cast cloud over Dresden Unity Day planning
A police vehicle in Dresden. Photo: DPA.

As Dresden prepares to host Germany’s national Unity Day celebrations on Monday, the capital of the eastern state of Saxony is upping security after a mosque was targeted by a homemade bomb.

Sinking Deutsche Bank stock sends shock across Europe
Photo: DPA

Shares in Germany's biggest lender Deutsche Bank plummeted on the Frankfurt stock market on Friday, dragging other European banks and global markets down with it, after reports some customers were pulling money out.

The Local List
10 things you never knew about German reunification
Reunification celebrations in Hanover in 2014. Photo: DPA

With German Unity Day (October 3rd) happening on Monday, Germans are looking forward to a three-day weekend. But did you know these facts about reunification and German Unity Day?

Munich pharmacy’s nighttime porno show draws crowd
Photo: DPA

When a police patrol in Munich's Sendlinger Tor area noticed a crowd gathered outside a pharmacy window they went to investigate. But the onlookers weren't interested in a new line of flu medicine.

Small town mayor beaten up for plan to house refugees
File photo: DPA.

The mayor of the small northern town of Oersdorf, Schleswig-Holstein, was beaten up by an as yet unknown person, police reported on Friday, seemingly because of plans to provide a home for refugees.

Fire at major Ruhr area hospital kills at least two
The fire in Bochum. Photo: DPA

Tragedy struck the western German town of Bochum on Friday morning when a huge fire broke out in a hospital in Bochum, killing at least two people.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Lifestyle
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
Lifestyle
10 German films you have to watch before you die
Lifestyle
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Lifestyle
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
National
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
6,582
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd