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Pope Urges Germany on Abortions

January 26, 1998

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ Pope John Paul II reportedly has urged Roman Catholic agencies in Germany to stop issuing certificates showing a woman has received counseling prior to abortion.

While Catholic counselors may persuade some women to continue their pregnancies, ultimately the system provides a ``key function for carrying out penalty-free abortions,″ the pope writes, the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper reported in its Tuesday editions.

Before having abortions, women in Germany must obtain a certificate saying they were counseled about alternatives to the procedure.

The Rundschau said it obtained a copy of the pope’s letter, which was scheduled for release Tuesday. In it, the pope urges the church to continue counseling, and praised bishops in Germany for their ``untiring efforts″ against abortion.

But he writes, according to Rundschau: ``From our beliefs it’s clear that church institutions are not permitted to do anything that can serve in any way as a justification for abortion.″

The pope says ``therefore I urgently request″ the bishops to find a way to end church-issued certificates, and urges them to seek ways of amending German law.

The German Bishops Conference agreed Monday has agreed on a response, but the group’s chairman, Bishop Karl Lehmann, said the decision would not be made public until Tuesday.

Gertrude Rogg, a spokeswoman for Caritas, a Catholic social service agency, said if the Catholic church withdraws from counseling, it will forfeit a key chance to influence women about abortion.

In 1996, 23 percent of the 17,000 women who visited Caritas’ female counselors decided to have a child, and 9 percent indicated they were going ahead with an abortion. Decisions in other cases weren’t known.

Prominent German Catholics have argued it is worthwhile to have Catholic representatives among counselors, even if some women seeking their advice later decide on abortion.

Some 130,000 abortions were registered in Germany last year.

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