Chancellor Scholz remembers former pope Benedict as ‘formative figure’

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz paid tribute to former pope Benedict XVI, who died Saturday aged 95, as a "special church leader" who helped shape the Catholic church.

Pope Benedict
In this file photo taken on April 4, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI delivers the traditional "Urbi et Orbi" (To the City and the World) Easter message from the central loggia of St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. Photo by Alberto Pizzoli / AFP

“As a ‘German’ pope, Benedict XVI was a special church leader for many, not only this country,” Scholz wrote on Twitter.

“The world has lost a formative figure of the Catholic Church, an argumentative personality and a clever theologian.”

In a separate statement, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier described Benedict as someone who “has made dialogue between faith and reason his life’s work”.

He had also sought dialogue with Jews, Muslims and all Christian denominations worldwide, said the president.

Steinmeier also noted that Benedict had been confronted by the sex abuse scandal that had rocked the Catholic Church worldwide.

He “knew of the great suffering of the victims and the immense damage to the credibility of the Catholic Church,” said Steinmeier.

While hailing Benedict as an “impressive theologian and experienced shepherd”, the head of the German Bishops Conference was more critical about Benedict’s record over the abuse scandal.

“He asked for forgiveness from those affected and yet questions remained unanswered,” said Georg Baetzing.

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German far-right politician charged over Nazi slogan

German prosecutors charged a prominent member of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party Monday with using a banned Nazi slogan in an election campaign.

German far-right politician charged over Nazi slogan

Björn Höcke, the party’s regional leader in Thuringia, allegedly used the motto of the Nazi’s Stormtroopers SA paramilitary wing, “Everything for Germany”, the Halle prosecutor’s office said.

Höcke, a former history teacher, uttered the phrase in full knowledge of its “origin and meaning” in front of 250 people at a campaign event in 2021, according to prosecutors.

The AfD won 10 percent of the vote in the general election that year. Höcke is charged with “the public use of a symbol of a former National Socialist organisation”.

READ ALSO: Far-right AfD at new high as climate issues split Germany

The far-right politician “questioned the criminal relevance of his remark” through his lawyer, prosecutors said.

The AfD is currently level in the polls with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats as discontent with the government grows.

It tops polls in a number of Germany’s eastern states, including Thuringia, though it trails the conservative opposition CDU-CSU alliance nationally.

In 2015 Höcke founded the “Flügel”, a radical faction within the AfD,which was placed under formal surveillance by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.

READ ALSO: Germany surveils far-right Flügel as fight against extremism stepped up

The organisation subsequently disbanded but the far-right firebrand, whose statements on Germany’s Nazi past have sparked outrage, remains influential within the party.

Höcke has called Berlin’s Holocaust monument a “memorial of shame” and urged a “180-degree shift” in the country’s culture of remembrance.

“This charge against Björn Höcke is a correct and, in my view, long-overdue step,” said Holocaust survivor and Munich Jewish community leader Charlotte Knobloch on Twitter.