German priest confesses at Sunday mass to embezzling church funds for lottery

A Catholic priest in Germany, lured by a get-rich-quick Internet scam, has admitted to embezzling a small fortune from his parish, a diocese spokeswoman said Monday.

German priest confesses at Sunday mass to embezzling church funds for lottery
Ballenstedt as seen from a view out of its castle's gate. Photo: DPA

The preacher in the central Harz Mountains region confessed to his congregants at this week's Sunday mass that he had skimmed €120,000 from church funds. 

“I let myself get snared by crooks on the Internet” who were running a bogus lottery, the 64-year-old clergyman said, who admitted that he had been taking the funds since summer. “They convinced me to transfer money to them several times.”

His exact motivation was not revealed. 

The spokeswoman said the priest had already turned himself in to the police and his bishop, Gerhard Feige, on Friday.

“No pastor and no church employee may misappropriate funds intended for the parish,” said Feige on Sunday in a statement released by the local diocese in Magdeburg.He must repay everything and bear the consequences under state and church law!”

The bishop stripped the priest, whose name was not released, of his post on the parish board in the town of Ballenstedt and said he would take further disciplinary measures.

But it was not immediately clear whether the priest would lose his job – that's a decision that will be taken by the parish after the bishop makes his recommendation. 

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Mosques in Cologne to start broadcasting the call to prayer every Friday

The mayor of Cologne has announced a two-year pilot project that will allow mosques to broadcast the call to prayer on the Muslim day of rest each week.

Mosques in Cologne to start broadcasting the call to prayer every Friday
The DITIP mosque in Cologne. Photo: dpa | Henning Kaiser

Mosques in the city of the banks of the Rhine will be allowed to call worshippers to prayer on Fridays for five minutes between midday and 3pm.

“Many residents of Cologne are Muslims. In my view it is a mark of respect to allow the muezzin’s call,” city mayor Henriette Reker wrote on Twitter.

In Muslim-majority countries, a muezzin calls worshippers to prayer five times a day to remind people that one of the daily prayers is about to take place.

Traditionally the muezzins would call out from the minaret of the mosque but these days the call is generally broadcast over loudspeakers.

Cologne’s pilot project would permit such broadcasts to coincide with the main weekly prayer, which takes place on a Friday afternoon.

Reker pointed out that Christian calls to prayer were already a central feature of a city famous for its medieval cathedral.

“Whoever arrives at Cologne central station is welcomed by the cathedral and the sound of its church bells,” she said.

Reker said that the call of a muezzin filling the skies alongside church bells “shows that diversity is both appreciated and enacted in Cologne”.

Mosques that are interested in taking part will have to conform to guidelines on sound volume that are set depending on where the building is situated. Local residents will also be informed beforehand.

The pilot project has come in for criticism from some quarters.

Bild journalist Daniel Kremer said that several of the mosques in Cologne were financed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, “a man who opposes the liberal values of our democracy”, he said.

Kremer added that “it’s wrong to equate church bells with the call to prayer. The bells are a signal without words that also helps tell the time. But the muezzin calls out ‘Allah is great!’ and ‘I testify that there is no God but Allah.’ That is a big difference.”

Cologne is not the first city in North Rhine-Westphalia to allow mosques to broadcast the call to prayer.

In a region with a large Turkish immigrant community, mosques in Gelsenkirchen and Düren have been broadcasting the religious call since as long ago as the 1990s.

SEE ALSO: Imams ‘made in Germany’: country’s first Islamic training college opens its doors