German president urges pope to soften stance on divorce

21st September 2011, Comments 0 comments

German President Christian Wulff on Thursday called on Pope Benedict XVI to reach out to people who had divorced or re-married and not restrict their participation in Catholic rites.

It was a "reality of life" that marriages sometimes failed, said Wulff -- himself a Catholic who has re-married -- in an interview published in a special supplement of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit to mark the Pope's first state visit to his German homeland.

"The millions of people who live in inter-denominational marriages and the millions of re-married Catholics, but lots of other groups too, are all hoping to be viewed as individuals" by the Vatican, Wulff said.

"They're hoping for understanding, conciliatory experiences and liberating messages," he said.

The Vatican currently bans divorced or re-married people from taking communion, a stance often criticized both within and outside the Church as being out of touch with modern-day attitudes on sexuality and the family.

While he said he set great store on the indissolubility of marriage, "if such life projects cannot be achieved, it may be better for everyone involved to separate and not cling on to a situation that has no future," Wulff argued.

He had encountered many differentiated points of view on the subject within the Church, the president said, not only at the grassroots level but also within the hierarchy.

In his first state visit to Germany, which takes him from Berlin to Freiburg over the next four days, Pope Benedict XVI faces a clamour for change, with calls for reform on many fronts -- from accepting divorce, female priests and married ministers, to acknowledging gay couples and giving lay people greater roles.

In Germany, where the Protestant and Catholic communities are roughly the same size, much emphasis is placed on rights linked to personal life choices.

© 2011 AFP

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