German Catholics flock tochurches after death of pope

4th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

4 April 2005, HAMBURG - Catholics of Germany, who openly criticised Pope John Paul II during his pontificate, flocked on Sunday to churches to mourn a pontiff who was praised by all for his tireless support for the weak.

4 April 2005

HAMBURG - Catholics of Germany, who openly criticised Pope John Paul II during his pontificate, flocked on Sunday to churches to mourn a pontiff who was praised by all for his tireless support for the weak.

Most registered German Catholics are only occasional mass-goers, but on Sunday there was standing room only in many places at mass.

Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky, the archbishop of Berlin, recited a mass for the dead in Berlin's downtown cathedral of St. Hedwig. He told the congregation of 500, some weeping, some stonily sad, "We mourn one of the family."

In Cologne, some 5,000 mourners had visited the great Gothic cathedral during the night and masses were well attended on Sunday.

Most of Germany's main television stations had interrupted their Saturday night shows with live telecasts from the Vatican. A pop-music gala, the Echo Awards, continued with celebrations more muted.

Secular Germans said later they wanted to restore normalcy. The German Football League ordered a minute of silence before Sunday main-league matches, but added that match cancellations were inappropriate.

Germans had an ambivalent relationship with John Paul, with a March poll showing nearly half the general population viewed him as an 'important' pope, 71 percent approved his views on peace and 62 percent supported his opposition to human cloning.

But many Catholics disagreed with the Polish pope's condemnation of 'artificial' birth control or his ban on woman priests.

Cardinal Karl Lehmann referred to a row between the German bishops and the pope over abortion counselling, saying, "The relationship with him was not always friction-free but even at difficult times it was possible to talk to him openly."

Lehmann stressed that Germany could partly thank the anti-communist pope for its 1990 reunification. "He was a bridge-builder," Lehmann told a Berlin audience on Sunday. "As a friend of the Germans he kept a close eye on us and expected much of us."

The previous evening, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had praised John Paul as a pope who changed the world.

Robert Zollitsch, archbishop of Freiburg in southern Germany, meanwhile said in an interview that he believed the dean of the college of cardinals, Josef Ratzinger, 77, would make a good pope.

Ratzinger, who is German, is viewed as one of the front-runners when the conclave of cardinals meets to select a successor to John Paul. Zollitsch said it was also conceivable that cardinals would choose a candidate from Latin America.

DPA

Subject: German news

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