Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

German Church leader Kaessmann admits drink-driving

File photo of Bishop Margot Kaessmann in Hanover
Margot Kaessmann said she would face the legal consequences

The head of Germany's Protestant church has admitted drink-driving, after she was charged with passing a red light while three times over the legal limit.

Bishop Margot Kaessmann, appointed the church's first female leader last year, was arrested in Hanover at the weekend.

She told Germany's Bild newspaper: "I am shocked at myself that I could have made such a grave error."

Leaders of the 25 million-strong church are discussing how the incident affects the 51-year-old's official position.

Ms Kaessmann, who became the first bishop in Germany to divorce in 2007, allegedly drove her VW Phaeton through a red light in central Hanover on Saturday night while "completely unfit to drive".

The mother of four daughters told Bild: "I know how dangerous and irresponsible drink-driving is. I will of course assume the legal consequences."

Courted controversy

Ms Kaessmann faces a fine of a month's salary and a one-year driving ban.

The breast cancer survivor, who leads the Protestant Lutheran Church in Germany, became her country's youngest bishop in 1999.

This is not the first time Ms Kaessmann has made the headlines.

She irritated senior politicians by calling for the withdrawal of German troops from Afghanistan, in a sermon on New Year's Day.

She has also criticised Catholic teachings on homosexuality, the ordination of women and celibacy.

The BBC's Oana Lungescu in Berlin says it is not just the Protestant church in Germany that faces controversy.

On Monday, the head of Germany's Catholic Church apologised for the growing number of sexual abuse cases that are coming to light at Jesuit high schools across the country.

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