The topless protester with the notorious feminist group Femen who disrupted Christmas Eve Mass in Cologne, Germany, last year by jumping on top of the altar with the words “I am God” scrawled across her torso, stood trial on Wednesday in the western German city, charged with "disturbance of the free practice of religion."
While Josephine Witt faced up to three years in jail, in the end she was fined the equivalent of about 1,500 USD.
"This was a particularly serious disturbance of a church service and we very much appreciate that the court sent a clear signal," Cologne Cathedral provost Norbert Feldhoff said, according to NBC News.
"Altar boys and children in our choir were traumatized. Many visiting parents complained about the psychological effects on their children. One of the altar boys stayed away from church service for two to three weeks,” he continued. "This isn't just about the Catholic Church, it's about free practice of religion in its widest sense, it's about living together peacefully.”
After the disturbance, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, the then-Archbishop of Cologne who was celebrating the Mass, told the worshippers, "I'm 80 years old. I've lived through so much. First the Nazi period, then the entire Communist period. Something like this can't shock me after that."
According to Femen’s website at the time, the act was a protest “against the Vatican propaganda about criminalization of abortion.”
In a bizarre and disjointed post about the incident, Femen wrote: “Europe, wake up, you have to be an idiot to take seriously these sermons parody inquisitors (sic). Everything smells of rot should be buried immediately (sic)! Long live woman! Long live the science! My pussy my rules! I AM GOD!”
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The group warned the Catholic Church of “further retribution” if Witt is not released. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” they wrote.
Following the incident, even leftist leaders condemned Witt’s actions. “The action by Femen in Cologne cathedral was disrespectful and an unnecessary disturbance of worshippers during a service,” said Volker Beck, religion spokesperson for the left-wing Green Party.
Femen, whose slogan is, “Our mission is protest, our weapons are bare breasts,” was founded in Ukraine in 2008 by Viktor Svyatski, who said in a documentary that he started the group as a way "to get girls."
The group, no longer headed by Svyatski, has since relocated to Paris after Ukraine police launched an official investigation following the discovery of weapons and explosives at Femen's Kyiv offices.
Femen has made a name for itself around the world for staging a series of obscene topless protests, including attacking Belgian Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard with water, parading topless in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, protesting against government plans in Ukraine to outlaw abortion in some circumstances, and chainsawing Orthodox crosses in the wake of the conviction of a Russian punk band for desecration of Moscow's Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.