Controversial Austrian priest steps down from bishop role

By staff writers
February 17, 2009

A controversial Austrian priest has agreed that Pope Benedict should revoke his appointment as a bishop in Austria, after his promotion led to a storm of protests because of his extreme views.

Fr Gerhard Maria Wagner was last week appointed as Bishop of Linz in Austria.

The news produced a wave of concern and objections after it emerged that Fr Wagner had described the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans as "God's punishment" for sexual excess and tolerance of homosexuality.

He had also gone on record as saying that the world-famous Harry Potter novels and films, written by an author who has links with the Episcopal Church in Scotland, "promote satanism."

As a result of the complaints, 31 of the 39 deans of the Linz Catholic diocese backed a declaration of no confidence in Fr Wagner and said that his appointment should not go ahead.

On Sunday the priest said that, after reflection, he had written to Benedict asking for his nomination to the auxiliary episcopal role to be withdrawn.

The Catholic news agency Kathpress has since reported that the Pope has agreed to the request.

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