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German archbishop offers to resign over Church’s sexual abuse ‘catastrophe’

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One of Roman Catholicism’s most influential liberal figures, Germany’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx (pictured), has offered to resign as archbishop of Munich, saying he had to share responsibility for the “catastrophe” of sexual abuse by clerics over past decades, write Thomas Escritt and Philip Pullella.

His offer, which Pope Francis has yet to accept, follows an uproar among the German faithful over abuse. Last week, the pope sent two senior foreign bishops to investigate the Archdiocese of Cologne, Germany’s largest, over its handling of abuse cases.

"I have to share responsibility for the catastrophe of sexual abuse by officials of the Church over past decades," Marx wrote in a letter to the pope. He said he hoped his departure would create space for a new beginning.

Marx, who is not under any suspicion of having participated in abuse or cover-ups, later told reporters churchmen had to take personal responsibility for institutional failings.

An independent inquiry commissioned from a law firm by the archdiocese to investigate historic abuse allegations there is due to report shortly.

The Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, was recently cleared in a similar external investigation into past abuse in his archdiocese.

One commentator, the religious scholar Thomas Schueller, interpreted Marx's words as a rebuke of Woelki, who has not resigned.

"He is directly challenging Cardinal Woelki when he talks of those who hide behind legal assessments and aren't prepared to tackle the systemic causes of sexualised violence in the Church with bold reforms," he told Der Spiegel.

Marx is a proponent of the "Synodal Path," a movement that aims to give lay Catholics more influence over the running of the Church and in issues including appointment of bishops, sexual morality, priestly celibacy and women's ordination.

Conservatives have attacked the concept, saying it could lead to a schism.

Marx, 67, who until last year was head of the German Catholic Church, told reporters he had sent the letter on May 21, but that it was only last week that the Pope had e-mailed him to say he could make it public.

The last few years have seen an accelerating exodus, with liberal faithful queuing in Cologne to quit the Church, protesting not only at abuse but also over conservative attitudes toward same-sex relationships.

Germany's Church has an outsized influence globally, in part because of its wealth: taxes paid by members and collected by the government make it the world's richest.

The pope, who is known to like Marx, typically waits, sometimes months, before deciding whether to accept a bishop's resignation.

Marx told the Pope he would continue to serve the Church in any capacity he was ordered to.

Brexit

Germany’s Merkel urges pragmatic approach to Northern Ireland

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured) called on Saturday for a “pragmatic solution” to disagreements over part of the Brexit deal that covers border issues with Northern Ireland, Reuters Read more.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain will do "whatever it takes" to protect its territorial integrity in a trade dispute with the European Union, threatening emergency measures if no solution was found.

The EU has to defend its common market, Merkel said, but on technical questions there could be a way forward in the dispute, she told a news conference during a Group of Seven leaders' summit.

"I have said that I favour a pragmatic solution for contractual agreements, because a cordial relationship is of utmost significance for Britain and the European Union," she said.

Referring to a conversation she had with U.S. President Joe Biden about geopolitical issues, Merkel said they agreed that Ukraine must continue to remain a transit country for Russian natural gas once Moscow completes the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

The $11 billion pipeline will carry gas to Germany directly, something Washington fears could undermine Ukraine and increase Russia's influence over Europe.

Biden and Merkel are due to meet in Washington on July 15, and the strain on bilateral ties caused by the project will be on the agenda.

The G7 sought on Saturday to counter China's growing influence by offering developing nations an infrastructure plan that would rival President Xi Jinping's multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road initiative. L5N2NU045

Asked about the plan, Merkel said the G7 was not yet ready to specify how much financing could be made available.

“Our financing instruments often are not as quickly available as developing countries need them,” she said

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Bavaria

Counter inflation with rate hike, Bavarian minister urges ECB

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Higher inflation is compounding the plight of savers and the European Central Bank should respond by raising its interest rates from 0%, Bavaria's finance minister, Albert Fueracker (pictured), told daily Bild in comments published on Wednesday (2 June).

Germany's annual consumer price inflation accelerated in May, advancing further above the ECB's target of close to but below 2%, the Federal Statistics Office said on Monday.

Consumer prices, harmonised to make them comparable with inflation data from other European Union countries, rose by 2.4% in May, up from 2.1% in April.

"Germany is a country of savers. The ECB's longstanding zero interest rate policy is poison for typical savings plans," Fueracker, a member of Bavaria's conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), told the mass-selling daily newspaper.

"In combination with the now rising inflation, the expropriation for savers is becoming more and more noticeable. Bavaria has been warning for years that the zero interest rate policy must be ended - now it is high time," he added.

Conservative Germans have long complained that the ECB's 0% interest rates hurt savers as they are left with little if any gain - a problem compounded by rising inflation eroding the value of their nest eggs.

Monday's price figures for May showed a national measure of inflation rose to 2.5%, the highest level since 2011.

Under the headline "Inflation is eating up our savings", Bild ran a separate story warning: "Germany's workers, pensioners and savers in fear because of high inflation!"

On Tuesday, the German federal government's economy minister, Peter Altmaier, said he was "watching this development with inflation very closely" but could not pass judgment on it yet.

Germans vote in a federal election on Sept. 26. So far, inflation has not gained traction as a campaign issue, but it is likely to exceed 3% later this year as a tax hike and statistical effects add to price pressures. Read more

Already the biggest critics of ECB policy, some conservative Germans fear that the central bank is excessively complacent about inflation and its easy money policy could herald a new period of higher prices.

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Energy

Germany to speed up wind and solar energy expansion

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The German government plans to speed up the expansion of wind and solar energy by 2030 as part of its climate protection programme, a draft law seen by Reuters showed on Wednesday (2 June).

The new plan aims to expand installed production capacity of onshore wind energy to 95 gigawatts by 2030 from a previous target of 71 GW, and of solar energy to 150 GW from 100 GW, the draft showed.

Germany's installed capacity of onshore wind power stood at of 54.4 GW and of solar energy at 52 GW in 2020.

The climate protection programme also envisages funding of around 7.8 billion euros ($9.5 billion) for next year, including 2.5 billion euros for building refurbishment and an extra 1.8 billion euros for subsidies for electric car purchases.

The plan also includes doubling support to help industry change processes to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, such as in steel or cement production.

However, these financial pledges can only be approved after the German federal election in September.

The move comes after Germany's Constitutional Court ruled in April that Chancellor Angela Merkel's government had failed to set out how to cut carbon emissions beyond 2030 after plaintiffs challenged a 2019 climate law. Read more.

Earlier this month, the cabinet approved draft legislation for more ambitious CO2 reduction targets, including being carbon neutral by 2045 and cutting German carbon emissions by 65% by 2030 from 1990 levels, up from a previous target for a 55% cut.

($1 = €0.8215)

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