|Germany||PRESIDENT ATTACKS 'RIGID' RATZINGER|
President Johannes Rau of Germany has launched an unprecedented attack on Catholic educational policy in his country, calling it too rigid and blaming Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.
The London Tablet reports that his comments have caused outrage among the Catholic hierarchy and surprised many observers who say that Germany's constitution requires the head of state to be neutral.
President Rau, a Lutheran who was formerly Social Democrat prime minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, made his remarks last week at a conference organised by the Protestant Churches. He deplored the segregation of children along denominational lines for religious instruction in state schools, and said that senior pupils ought to learn more about other faiths.
The Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Meisner, described himself as 'speechless and outraged' that the President who had set out at his inauguration to be a 'bridge-builder' should have used such hostile language. The President had violated the constitution in not remaining aloof from politics, Meisner said, adding that German law gave the Churches control over the content of religious instruction in schools.
Rau's comments are nevertheless seen as reflecting a larger national debate about religious instruction. The Protestant Churches generally favour a looser, non-denominational approach to the subject.