An angry congregation has walked out on a priest saying Mass in Germany after the pastor preached on the need to forgive clerics who sexually abuse children.

Driving the news

As DW reports, the controversial sermon took place in Münster, in the northwest of Germany, where 79-year-old retired priest Ulrich Zurkuhlen insisted that the Bible mandates forgiveness for sex criminals.

Talking with the website after his sermon – delievered with abuse surviors present – caused a near riot in the church of the Holy Spirit, Zurkuhlen lamented the fact that pedophile priests are labelled “criminals” even after many years of service.

For the record

“Nobody is just profoundly evil,” said Zurkuhlen. “Goodness and guilt are often combined with each other or stand side by side without touching,” the priest added.

The big picture

Zurkuhlen’s comments have touched a nerve in Germany, whose country’s bishops revealed in a 2018 report that 1,670 priests, or 4.4% of all clerics, had abused 3,677 people between 1946 and 2014.

The priest said that it is “time for the Church hierarchy to say a word of forgiveness after a long time”, and put the negative reactions to his sermon down to the actions of a “screaming mob”.

What’s next

A spokesman for the Münster diocese told the DPA news agency that the Church’s efforts should be with “the victims, not the perpetrators”.

Stefan Rau, also a priest at the Münster Holy Spirit church, rebuked Zurkuhlen for his sermon, saying that “I always try to give my colleagues in the pastoral team encouragement… [b]ut this was not possible this time”.

“There has already been a conversation with the priest concerned and the entire pastoral team, and there will be another conversation”, added Rau, revealing that the parish had invited its faithful to a meeting on Monday to address the aftermath of Zurkuhlen’s words.