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Germany

Germany in Brief

Catholic priest is suspended for holding communion ceremony with Protestants; Germany's population grows slightly; suspected cannibal is charged with murder and more.

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Will the Vatican step in to reinstate a suspended German priest?

Bishop suspends Catholic priest

Trier Bishop Reinhard Marx has suspended Catholic priest Gotthold Hasenhüttl for holding a holy communion ceremony for both Catholics and Protestants. In addition, the church will also revoke the retired theology professor's teaching credentials, Marx announced on Thursday. He said the suspension had been a painful decision, but that he was bound by church law to punish the offending priest. The suspension was not irreversible, he added. Hasenhüttl has objected to the suspension and said he will file a complaint to the Vatican if the decision is not revoked within two weeks. He accused Marx of employing "inquisitorial measures." The priest had celebrated the Eucharist in a service initiated by reform groups during the Ecumenical Kirchentag (church congress) in Berlin in May. The Pope forbid Catholics to take communion with Protestants in mid-April. In June, the Eichstätt Bishopric suspended Catholic priest Bernhard Kroll for having taken part in a Protestant communion in Berlin.

German population increases slightly

Around 82.5 million people lived in Germany at the end of 2002, the Federal Statistics Office reported on Thursday, 96,000 more than the previous year. Although 122,000 more people died than were born in Germany, 219,000 more moved to Germany than left the country, thus making up for the so-called birth deficit. Since 1991 more people have died in Germany than have been born. Last year 656,000 foreigners immigrated to the country, 71,000 of whom applied for asylum. Around 504,000 foreigners emigrated. In formerly communist eastern Germany 0.8 percent of the population moved away, while the western German states -- except for the state Saarland -- experienced an average of 0.3 percent population growth.

Prosecutor says suspected cannibal driven by desire

A suspected cannibal has been charged with murder in Kassel. On Thursday federal prosecutor Hans-Manfred Jung said the accused, Arnim M., had been driven by sexual desire to "cut up a person and eat him afterwards" and would be tried for murder instead of assisted suicide, despite having received the victim's consent to go through with the killing. The 41-year-old Arnim M. confessed to killing and partially eating the 43-year-old Berliner Bernd Jürgen B. with his permission on March 10, 2001 in Rotenburg in the state of Hesse. Arnim M. first cut off his victim's penis, which the two men ate together. He then stabbed Bernd Jürgen B.'s in the throat, cut up the corpse and stored it in a freezer. Arnim B. recorded the events on a video camera. It is still unclear whether the video will be shown in court. Bernd Jürgen B. had responded to an Internet ad that Armin M. had circulated in order to find someone to kill and cut up.

Canada assumes Afghan peacekeeping duties from Germany

Canada assumed the leadership of the Multinational Brigade of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan from Germany on Thursday. In a hand-over ceremony in Kabul, the troops -- soldiers from 23 countries -- commemorated those killed since the mission began in January 2001, 14 of whom were German. German Brigade General Werner Freers said at the ceremony it was "painful" that he couldn't take every one back "alive and healthy". In June, four German soldiers were killed in an attack on the peacekeepers and 29 were injured. Together with the Netherlands, Germany has led the Brigade since March. NATO will assume the ISAF command on August 11.

Kidnapped tourists in Algeria could soon be free

The Algerian newspaper El Watan reported on Thursday that 15 European holidaymakers -- ten Germans, four Swiss and a Dutch national -- held hostage in the Sahara Desert could soon be released. The Algerian military had told the kidnappers they would be ensured safe conduct if they released the hostages, the paper wrote. The kidnappers, who are thought to be members of a radical Islamic group, had apparently accepted the offer in return for further safety guarantees. Neither the Algerian nor German authorities were willing to confirm the information. The European tourists disappeared more than four months ago. Another group of European holidaymakers kidnapped earlier this year was freed by the Algerian military in May.

Compiled with information from wire agencies.