December 23, 2008 / 6:40 PM / 12 years ago

Xmas mass only for church members

BERLIN (Reuters) - Some senior German politicians have caused a stir by suggesting that only citizens who pay church tax should be allowed to attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

Worried that regular churchgoers cannot find a seat due to the popularity of the traditional Christmas service, Thomas Volk, a top member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in Baden-Wuerttemberg, said the church should be selective.

“I support the idea of church services on December 24 being open only to those people who pay church tax,” Volk, from the predominantly Catholic southern state, told top-selling Bild newspaper this week.

Martin Lindner, a member of the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) in Berlin, also expressed alarm at the lack of places in church and told Bild that parish members should get tickets entitling them to the best seats.

Germany’s Catholic and Protestant churches get most of their funding from revenues collected by the tax office. Germans who officially leave their church are exempt from the church tax.

But the idea hit a storm of protest from church figures.

“The idea that only parish members should get a place in the church on Christmas Eve and that other people should be excluded is absurd,” the head of Germany’s EKD Protestant Church, Wolfgang Huber, told the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Giles Elgood

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