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RELIGION

German cardinal urges lifting celibacy rule for priests

German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, whose archdiocese was the subject of a recent damning report into child sex abuses, said he was in favour of lifting the celibacy requirement for priests.

German Cardinal Reinhard Marx speaks at a press conference
German Cardinal Reinhard Marx speaks at a press conference following a report on sexual abuse against young people in the Catholic Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Pool | Sven Hoppe

“For many priests, it would be better if they were married,” the influential archbishop of Munich and Freising told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

His comments came after a damning independent report last month found 497 victims of sexually abusive behaviour by 235 people – including 173 priests – in the Munich and Freising archdiocese between 1945 and 2019.

The report by law firm Westpfahl Spilker Wastl found that former Munich and Freising archbishop, ex-pope Benedict XVI, failed to take action to stop four priests accused of child sex abuse in Munich in the 1980s, before he became pontiff.

READ ALSO: German prosecutors examine 42 cases after church abuse probe

It also accused current archbishop Marx of failing to act in two cases of suspected abuse.

After the report was released, Marx said he was “shocked and ashamed” by the findings.

On Wednesday, Marx said he wondered if celibacy “should be a basic requirement for every priest”.

“I think that things as they are cannot continue like this,” he added.

“I always say this to young priests: living alone is not so easy.

“And if some say: without the obligation of celibacy, they will all get married! My answer is: so what! If they all marry, it would at least be a sign that things are not currently working.”

The unusually forthright comments on the subject came on the eve of a new assembly of the German synod, which is expected to move towards modernising the institution by 2023.

It is expected to look at several subjects viewed with suspicion by conservatives and the Vatican, such as allowing priests to marry and a greater role for women.

Last year Marx offered Pope Francis his resignation over the church’s “institutional and systemic failure” in its handling of child sex abuse scandals.

However Pope Francis rejected his offer, urging the cardinal known for his reforms to stay and help shape change in the church.

Four years ago a report found that at least 3,677 children had been sexually abused in the Catholic Church in Germany since 1946.

But its authors, who did not have access to the church’s files, estimated that the true number was far higher.

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CULTURE

German art show slammed over anti-Semitic images

Jewish leaders and Israel's embassy to Germany have voiced "disgust" over anti-Semitic images on display at Documenta, one of the world's biggest art fairs.

German art show slammed over anti-Semitic images

Documenta had been clouded in controversy for months over its inclusion of a Palestinian artists’ group strongly critical of the Israeli occupation.

On Monday – two days after the show opened to the public – one of the works on display by Indonesian art group Taring Padi also came under fire over depictions that both the German government and Jewish groups say went too far.

On the offending mural is the depiction of a pig wearing a helmet blazoned “Mossad”.

On the same work, a man is depicted with sidelocks often associated with Orthodox Jews, fangs and bloodshot eyes, and wearing a black hat with the SS-insignia.

“We are disgusted by the anti-Semitic elements publicly displayed at the Documenta 15 exhibition,” said Israel’s embassy in a statement.

“Elements being portrayed in certain exhibits are reminiscent of propaganda used by Goebbels and his goons during darker times in German history,” it added.

“All red lines have not only been crossed, they have been shattered.”

READ ALSO: Top German art show starts amid anti-Semitism row

Josef Schuster, of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, noted that “artistic freedom ends where xenophobia begins”.

Culture Minister Claudia Roth also said this is where “artistic freedom finds its limits”, as she urged the show’s curators to “draw the necessary
consequences”.

The president of the German-Israel Society, Volker Beck, told Bild daily that he was filing a case with prosecutors over the picture.

Documenta later said it and the Indonesian collective had decided to cover up the work and install an explanation next to it.

No Israeli Jewish artist

Documenta, held in the German city of Kassel, includes the works of more than 1,500 participants.

For the first time since its launch in 1955, the show is being curated by a collective, Indonesia’s Ruangrupa.

But even in the run-up to the show’s opening this weekend, the group has come under fire for including the collective called The Question of Funding over its links to the BDS boycott Israel movement.

BDS was branded anti-Semitic by the German parliament in 2019 and barred from receiving federal funds. Around half of Documenta’s 42-million-euro budget comes from public funds.

Opening the exhibition this weekend, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he had considered skipping the event.

“While some criticism is justified of Israeli policies, such as on settlement building”, the recognition of the Israeli state is “the basis and prerequisite of the debate” in Germany.

He called it disturbing that some from outside Europe or North America had refused to take part in cultural events in which Jewish Israelis are participating.

It was striking that no Jewish artist from Israel was represented at this edition of Documenta, he noted.

By Hui Min NEO

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