German Catholic seminarians expelled for Nazi jokes, salute

Thu Aug 1, 2013 12:11pm EDT
 
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters) - An investigation into rumors of neo-Nazi activity at a seminary in Bavaria has resulted in two student priests being expelled for imitating the Nazi salute and making jokes about death camps, two bishops announced.

The commission probing rumors of neo-Nazi activity at the seminary in Wuerzburg also found a third student had said participants in recent anti-racism marches in the southern German state deserved "a smack in the face", the bishops said.

Rumors of a "brown (Nazi) network" at the seminary began circulating in early May, including talk of a party in its basement pub to mark the Nazi leader's April 20 birthday. Using the symbols of Nazism or glorifying it is illegal in Germany.

The independent commission found no proof it had taken place but even the hint of neo-Nazi sympathies was deeply embarrassing for a Church still struggling with the fallout from revelations of sexual abuse of minors by priests in recent years.

"All forms of xenophobia, racism and extremism are incompatible with Christianity," Bamberg Archbishop Ludwig Schick told a news conference in Wuerzburg on Wednesday.

"We have to make more intensive efforts at the seminary to increase the awareness of the special relations between Jews and Christians," Bamberg Bishop Friedhelm Hofmann said.

The seminary serves Bamberg and Wuerzburg dioceses and both posted the two bishops' comments and remarks by the head of the commission on their websites.

Norbert Baumann, a local judge who headed the inquiry into the neo-Nazi rumors, said the probe quizzed 28 people including all 18 seminarians in Wuerzburg. He did not name the two expelled seminarians but recounted what they had done.   Continued...