ROME, Sept 16 ( – For the second time since May, German Catholic Church leaders were in consultation with Pope John Paul II this week over abortion counselling. German Cardinals Joachim Meisner of Cologne, Georg Maximilian Sterzinsky of Berlin, Friedrich Wetter of Munich and Archbishop Karl Lehmann were also in discussions with Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Catholic World News reports that after the consultation the Vatican indicated that it will soon issue new instructions to the German bishops regarding pre-abortion counseling.  German law requires that prior to obtaining an abortion women must seek counsel at an approved counselling centre and produce a certificate as proof of having received help. Many dioceses in Germany operated such centres noting that they were encouraging women to carry their children to term and accept the assistance offered them. However, providing the certificate implicated the Church in assisting women to obtain abortions.

In a letter to the German bishops last year, the pope insisted that the certificates given by Catholic counselling must not be used to obtain “decriminalized abortions.” The suggestion was agreed to by the inclusion of a sentence saying: “This certificate cannot be used for the carrying out of a legal abortion.” However, some bishops were concerned that the certificates might be used to obtain abortions despite the added sentence, while others worried that the inclusion of the sentence would dissuade women from using the Church counselling centres. The pope demanded that his suggestions be acted upon by this year.