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Swiss say Pope must go

Three out of four people surveyed said the Pope should step down Keystone Archive

Seventy-four per cent of Swiss think the Pope should retire because of his age and poor health, according to a survey published by “L’Hebdo” magazine.

The findings come shortly after 40 prominent Swiss Catholics called on the Pontiff to step down, just ahead of next month’s visit to Switzerland.

In the survey of 1,025 people, just 17 per cent said the Pope – who celebrated his 84th birthday last week – should remain in office.

About 400 respondents were Catholics, and of these, 69 per cent of French speakers were in favour of his mandatory retirement, while Swiss Germans voted 75 per cent in favour.

But Dr Agnell Rickenmann, secretary-general of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference, said the findings were not a major surprise.

“People are focused on external matters like age and health. I would say we have a cult of youth,” Rickenmann told swissinfo.

“But I think that if you invite the Pope, you have to hear first what he has to say. It’s a question of politeness.”

He also questioned whether a sample of 1,000 people could really be seen as representative.


Jörg Stolz, a professor of the sociology of religion at the University of Lausanne, told swissinfo some anger is to be expected within the Church:

“They talked about this to [Pope John Paul II] when he was 75, because bishops have to retire at this age limit, but he didn’t want to. This is a reason why Catholics are angry that he continues.”

Stolz said the Pope does not respond to public opinion. In some ways this makes the Catholic Church more stable, he said, but it can also lead to confrontation.

He said the survey results would be more interesting if they included only practising Catholics.

Albert Longchamp, director of Jesuit cultural magazine “Choice”, said the survey did not explain people’s reasons for wanting a mandatory retirement age.

And he added: “The climate of defiance is somewhat indecent,” just ahead of the papal visit.


Respondents were also asked what Pope John Paul II was best known for.

In answer, 34.6 per cent named an “irresponsible” stance against condoms in the age of Aids, while 24.2 per cent answered that he had “strengthened” the Catholic Church. Twenty-five per cent had no opinion.

Last week an open letter signed by 40 theologians and lay Catholics called for the retirement of the current Pope and a mandatory retirement age of 75.

Theologian Hans Küng said the open letter was “absolutely correct”. He too, called for the resignation of the Pope, and said a new pontiff should push for major church reforms.

In just over a week, the Pope is scheduled to visit Switzerland for the first time in 20 years.

He will visit Bern to attend the first-ever major gathering of Swiss Catholic youth and celebrate mass on June 5 and 6.

The Pope suffers from Parkinson’s disease and his visit to Switzerland is his first foreign trip this year.

During a visit to Slovakia last September, aides had to read most of his addresses, leading many to think it would be his last trip abroad.

swissinfo, Elizabeth Meen

In a survey of 1,025 people in French- and German-speaking Switzerland:
74.2% said the Pope should retire.
16.9% said he should stay in office.
412 Catholics were questioned.
Of these, 69.4% of Swiss French and 75.8% of Swiss Germans wanted the Pope to step down.

While preparations are underway for the Pope’s visit on June 5 and 6, a survey of 1,025 people suggests three in four want him to step down.

The Swiss Bishops’ Conference said the findings were not surprising, but reflected today’s cult of youth.

40 prominent Swiss Catholics have written an open letter calling on the Pope to retire on health grounds.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR