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German church leader was five times over limit

THE head of the German Protestant Church, the outspoken divorcee Margot Kassmann, has resigned, a few days after police found her drunk at the wheel of her official car.

Bishop Kassmann (51) spoke for about 25 million Protestants in Germany. She was stopped by police on Saturday night after driving through a red light and was found to have five times the legal amount of alcohol in her blood.

"I made a big mistake," she said, "and I deeply regret it. But even if I do regret it . . . I cannot retain the necessary authority in my office."

This was about self-respect and consistency, she said. Therefore she was resigning not only as chairman of the Evangelical Church but also as bishop of Hanover.

The police said that they failed to take the name of a male passenger who was in the car with Bishop Kassmann when she was stopped.

She faces a fine equivalent to a month's salary and a one-year driving ban, but the chief problem is the charge of hypocrisy.

Tabloid newspapers have been digging out past declarations: her renunciation of alcohol during the Lenten fast last year; a newspaper column that announced "the Bible warns against drunkenness"; and an admonition in her Christmas sermon that people should not drown their sorrows in alcohol. (©The Times, London)

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