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Friday, 8 March, 2002, 17:15 GMT
German bishop capitulates on abortion
German's bishops conference
German bishops agreed to stop counselling three years ago
The last German diocese to hold out against a Vatican order to stop counselling women who want abortions has finally given in.


I am still convinced that our way of counselling women would save the lives of many more children

Bishop Kamphaus
Bishop Franz Kamphaus of Limburg has for the past two years continued to allow church centres to provide counselling to women wanting to terminate their pregancies, despite a papal order for the practice to cease.

Abortion is technically illegal in Germany, but women are not punished provided they have received counselling at a state approved centre, which issues them with a certificate allowing them to obtain a termination.

Many church centres were involved in this until the order came from the Pope, who said that issuing certificates to give women access to abortions was a "despicable crime".

Bishop Kamphaus allowed counselling to continue not because he supports abortion, but because he saw counselling as an opportunity to dissuade women from terminating their pregnancies.

Biased

But he backed down after the Vatican issued him with another order to stop the counselling service.

Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II: Counseliing is despicable crime
"Until the last moment I had hoped for another outcome to this conflict," he said.

"I am still convinced that our way of counselling women would save the lives of many more children."

But he said he had no intention to step down from his position as bishop of Limburg, one of the country's smaller dioceses with a flock of some 730,000.

Pro-choice groups are unlikely to be disappointed with the diocese's withdrawal from counselling, having consistently argued that the church is unable to provide women with a non-biased service, as Bishop Kamphaus freely admits.

The Roman Catholic church is influential in Germany, particularly in the south, claiming more than 25m followers.

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