Pope may step in as row over German bishop grows


POPE BENEDICT may be forced to intervene in an escalating row in his native Germany over the resignation of the country’s most controversial conservative bishop.

Dr Walter Mixa resigned in April as archbishop of Augsburg after allegations surfaced that he had beaten young children in a care facility in his parish in the late 1970s.

His resignation was accepted two weeks later by Pope Benedict, but now Dr Mixa wants that decision to be reversed after claiming he was pressurised to quit over unproven sex abuse allegations.

The increasingly bad-tempered row has become a proxy war between liberal and conservative wings struggling for the upper hand in the German Catholic church.

Dr Mixa came under pressure to resign after first denying and then admitting hitting children at a children’s home in his parish near Munich in the late 1970s.

In recent days, however, he has claimed the pope’s acceptance of his resignation hinged on claims of sexual abuse of seminarians – and said that he had withdrawn his resignation letter before Pope Benedict met German bishops in Rome to discuss it.

“This rumour was baseless, as the Augsburg prosecutor’s office confirmed after looking into it,” said Dr Mixa to Die Welt newspaper.

The ex-bishop said he felt “tricked” by Germany’s two leading archbishops, Reinhard Marx and Robert Zollitsch, who he said added the sexual abuse claim as a “trump card” to other claims before the pope.

Furious church liberals have urged Dr Mixa to remain silent, while others have accused him of having lost touch with reality.

At the weekend, allegations surfaced that the former bishop had undergone treatment for alcohol dependency. For years Dr Mixa was a polarising figure in German public life, loathed by liberals and revered by conservatives for pronouncements that regularly made national headlines.

In 2007 he attacked the government for laws to enable women to combine family and a career for, as he saw it, “creating a worker reserve for industry” that reduced women to “breeding machines”.

Meanwhile the Vatican has denied reports that the archbishop of Poznan in Poland had threatened to resign in protest at the reinstatement of his predecessor, accused of abusing seminarians.

A Vatican spokesman said the Polish media claims were “unfounded” and said the 2002 suspension of Julius Paetz as bishop still stood.