|Vatican||GERMAN BISHOP TO VATICAN, MAY DISCUSS ABORTION ROW|
The head of the Catholic Church in Germany will meet Vatican officials today amid speculation that he is seeking to defuse tension between the Pope and German bishops over abortion counselling.
Rudolf Hammerschmidt, a spokesman for the German Bishops' conference, said Bishop Karl Lehmann and a group of bishops would meet Vatican officials at the Papal summer residence in Castelgandolfo, outside Rome.
"It is possible that Pope John Paul will also take part in the discussions," Hammerschmidt said. A dispute between the Vatican and the German church erupted earlier this year when the Pope ordered it to stop counselling women seeking abortions.
Under German law, a woman seeking abortion must discuss her situation with an advisory service in order to get a certificate proving she has had counselling. Only then can she go ahead with the abortion procedure.
The Catholic Church advises women seeking abortions not to terminate their pregnancies, in line with church doctrine which teaches that life begins at conception. The Pope had said any involvement in the state-run scheme was unacceptable.
However, under a compromise worked out with the Vatican in June, the German Catholic Church toughened up the anti-abortion language on certificates its counselling centres issue to women seeking abortion. The church still issues the certificates, for which it receives considerable state funding.
German media have reported growing pressure from conservative German bishops who want to reverse the current ruling and pull out of counselling altogether. Lehmann has defended the compromise.
Reuters 11:06am 15/9/99