MAINZ, Germany (CWN) - Germany's bishops' conference on Tuesday said the Catholic Church would continue to participate in the nation's controversial abortion counseling procedure despite a request from Pope John Paul that they stop.

      Bishop Karl Lehmann, president of the conference, said Catholic agencies would continue to provide abortion counseling, but added the bishops will meet in March to decide how to continue the counseling without contributing to abortion. Under German law, women who wish to abort their child must first see a counselor, and then, if they wish to go ahead with the procedure, receive a certificate from the counselor. In a private letter to the bishops published in a Frankfurt newspaper on Tuesday, the Holy Father said: "I would like to urgently request that you, dear brothers, find ways so that a certificate of this nature is no longer issued in Church counseling centers or in centers which are affiliated with the Church."

      Supporters of Catholic involvement in the process argue that Catholic counselors can positively influence women who are deciding whether to have an abortion. Chancellor Helmut Kohl and his Christian Democrats' party have also urged the Church to remain involved because of the possibility of abortion splitting its voter base of Christians in upcoming elections.

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January 28, 1998 volume 9, no. 20          DAILY CATHOLIC