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German bishop breaks ranks with Vatican on abortion counselling

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.

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

"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.



11 Mar 2002