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German Evangelical elected President
Churches welcome Koehler’s election - highest office remains in Protestant hands
 
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
by Wolfgang Polzar
 

BERLIN  (ANS) -- Horst Koehler, future President of Germany, is a Protestant. The Federal Assembly in Berlin elected the 61-year-old economist and former director of the International Monetary Fund, May 23. Koehler, candidate of Christian Democrats and Liberals, defeated the Catholic university professor Gesine Schwan, who was nominated by the ruling Social Democrats and Greens, by only one vote in the first ballot.

The new President, who will succeed Johannes Rau for a first five-year term July 1, finished his first remarks with the phrase: “God bless our Country!” He called for an “enlightened patriotism” and urged Germans to adopt a positive approach to much needed social, economic and political reform. In particular, Germany needed to become a “family and children friendly nation”. The country should not forget its responsibility for the world’s poor.

Unlike his counterparts in other Western countries, for instance the United States and France, the German President has little political power. The office has a largely representative and appellative function.

Although the 26.5 million Catholics in Germany outnumber the 26.2 million members of the mainline Protestant churches, only one of the eight previous Presidents since World War II was a Roman Catholic: Heinrich Luebke (1959-1969).

Most Presidents were active in the Protestant church, for example Gustav Heinemann (1969-1974), Karl Carstens (1979-1984), Richard von Weizsaecker (1984-1994), Roman Herzog (1994-1999) and Johannes Rau (1999-2004). Rau comes from an evangelical family background and is affectionately known as “Brother John” for his deep biblical knowledge.

The Roman Catholic Church as well as the mainline Protestant Church and the German Evangelical Alliance have welcomed Koehler’s election. The Christian Pro-Life group Kaleb welcomed his demand for a revision of the abortion laws, especially with regard to late-term abortions. So far, Koehler has not been very outspoken about his faith. He is married and has two children. One daughter is blind.



Wolfgang Polzer  is senio

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