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German Cardinal smooths abortion 'holocaust' row

Catholic bishops' conference head Cardinal Karl Lehmann said on Friday that he had reached agreement with the president of German Jewish Council over the "incomparable" status of the Holocaust, following adverse Jewish reaction to perceived insensitive remarks in the Pope's latest book.

Jewish leaders in Germany were upset over the pope's new book "Memory and Identity" which evoked the Holocaust and the "legal extermination" that governments sanction by allowing abortion.

"When the Holocaust is taken up or mentioned in political, social or church speeches a particularly sensitive language is always needed," Lehmann said in a statement.

The book echoed similar remarks made by the cardinal of Cologne, Joachim Meisner, who compared the mass murder of Herod, Hitler and Stalin with abortion. He later expressed regret for his comparison.

Under pressure from the Vatican, the Church in Germany has taken a strong stance against abortion. An ongoing debate in the late 1990's led between Pope John Paul and the German Catholic Church led to a papal decree that ended counselling that would lead to an abortion.

Until the end of 2000, church organisations could counsel women who were having difficulties of any kind during the pregnancy. If the woman did decide on termination, a church counselor would sign the mandatory paperwork declaring that the woman went through counseling.

Many in the German Catholic Church had argued that the counseling tool was effective in combating abortion and now feel they have lost a tool to persuade a woman to carry out a pregnancy to term.

German Cardinal Smooths Abortion Row (Deutsche Welle 26/2/05)

German Bishops Conference
German bishops defy Pope over abortion (BBC 24/9/99)

New Pope book hits Jewish sensitivities (CathNews 21/2/05)

German cardinal backs away from Pope's remarks on abortion, Holocaust (Catholic World News 25/2/05)

28 Feb 2005