Priest burns himself to death over Islam From David Crossland in BerlinA retired priest committed suicide by setting himself on fire in a German monastery in protest at the spread of Islam and the Protestant Church’s inability to contain it.
Roland Weisselberg, 73, poured a can of petrol over his head and set light to himself in the grounds of the Augustine monastery in the eastern city of Erfurt, where Martin Luther spent six years as a monk at the beginning of the 16th century.
Witnesses said that Weisselberg climbed into a building site next to the monastery church, where a Reformation Day service was being held. He shouted “Jesus and Oskar” before the flames engulfed him. The latter name was an apparent reference to Oskar Brüsewitz, a priest who burnt himself in 1976 in protest against the Communist regime in East Germany. Monastery staff tried to put out the flames and Weisselberg was still conscious as a nun prayed with him before he was taken to hospital. He died a day later, on Wednesday.
Media reports said that he had tried to kill himself inside the church but changed his mind when he found the side door was locked.
The Provost of Erfurt, Elfriede Begrich, told reporters that Weisselberg’s widow had said that he killed himself because he was alarmed at the spread of Islam and the Church’s stance on the issue.
She described Weisselberg as an erudite man who had addressed repeatedly the Church’s position on Islam in meetings over the past three to four years. He had written to her, urging her to take the matter more seriously, she said.
The Protestant Bishop of Saxony, Axel Noack, said the suicide had shocked the community and that he hoped it would not hurt relations between Christians and Muslims.
“We in the East are still among ourselves when we discuss Islam,” said Bishop Noack, adding that there were not many Muslims in the area.
Relations with Muslims have been a matter of intense debate in Germany in recent months, stoked by the cancellation of a Mozart opera in Berlin amid fears that it could provoke Muslim violence, and a speech by the Pope in September in which he quoted from a medieval text linking the spread of the Islamic faith to violence.
The Berlin Deutsche Oper has said that it will stage the opera, which has a scene showing the severed heads of the Prophet Muhammad, Jesus and Buddha.
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