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Firebrand bishop found 'drunk' in her car

Bishop Margot Kassmann, the controversial head of Germany's Lutheran church, has been caught driving with over three times the legal limit of alcohol in her blood.

The 51-year-old chief representative of the country's 25 million Protestants, who is an outspoken moralist and the first woman ever to hold the job, was pulled over by police in downtown Hanover after she ran a red light.

The incident was particularly embarrassing for the bishop as it happened only four days after the beginning of Lent and after she had previously explained that she usually gave up alcohol during the period.

"I have suddenly noticed how easily a glass of wine in the evening can turn into a habit," she said in a magazine interview.

The officers breathalysed her after smelling alcohol in the car. A subsequent blood test revealed that the bishop's blood had an alcohol content of more than three times the legal limit.

Police said they had confiscated the bishop's driving licence and begun an official investigation into the incident.

According to police, she had consumed well over the equivalent of a bottle of wine or one and a half litres of strong beer before getting in to her car. Under German law, she faces a year's driving ban and a hefty fine if convicted.


Germany's Protestant church refused to comment on the incident yesterday.

However, Bishop Kassmann was demonstrably penitent. "I am shocked at myself and by the fact that I was capable of making such a serious mistake," she said in a statement.

"I know how dangerous and irresponsible drink-driving is. I will of course take all the legal consequences."

Bishop Kassmann has four daughters and divorced her husband of 26 years in 2007.

However her critics absolved her after it emerged that her husband had left her for another woman.

She was appointed head of Germany's Protestant Church council last October

Since her appointment, Bishop Kassmann, who is often described as humourless, has played the role of a moral authority.

She has in the past criticised bankers for their greed during the country's financial crisis and has condemned all forms of "excess".