Prepared for protests

In view of the planned protests against the Pope's visit, the German Bishops' Conference urges church opponents to show consideration. "Protests cannot be rejected, but we expect fair treatment," Bishops' Conference spokesman Matthias Kopp said Friday, adding, "Fair means treating the church and the pope with respect and not disturbing the celebration of the faithful."

Overall, however, the church sees the planned demonstrations calmly, according to Kopp: "70.000 worshippers in Berlin's Olympic Stadium are a clear expression of what we want: to show faith. We will not be unsettled by protests in Berlin."—-Pope Benedict XVI. comes from the 22. to 25. September for the first time on an official state visit to Germany. Alliances critical of the Vatican have called for protests at the central stops of the visit in Berlin, Erfurt and Freiburg. —-"Fun as hell instead of scary as hell" — The largest demonstration is expected in Berlin, where the network "The Pope is coming" for 22. September plans rally against "the Pope's anti-human gender and sexual politics". The network unites according to own data 40 groupings, organizations and associations, among them the lesbian and gay federation Berlin Brandenburg (LSVD), pro familia, the German AIDS assistance, the humanistic federation as well as sections of SPD and Greens. —-In Erfurt's city center, a demonstration is planned for 23. September a demonstration under the slogan "Heidenspab statt Hollenangst" is announced. "The chairman of a deeply reactionary association is to be publicly celebrated here," one of the organizers justified the rally when asked by dapd. A "religion-free zone" is to be set up to coincide with the church service in Cathedral Square the following day. The Erfurt alliance is supported by homosexual associations, university groups, a queer feminist group as well as comrades-in-arms from the left spectrum.—-The initiative "Freiburg without a pope" wants to demonstrate on 24. and 25. September citizens with events to inform about their criticism of the Vatican. "We want to point out that there is a lot of intolerance, hostility to democracy and also hostility to humanity," the spokesman for the alliance, Albrecht Ziervogel, told dapd. The initiative accuses the church of a failed contraception policy and discrimination against women and homosexuals.

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