Rate your priest on new German website

BERLIN Tue Aug 2, 2011 8:39am EDT

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BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - You can rate your restaurant meal, your make-up, your teacher online and now in Germany your priest.

Hirtenbarometer (hirtenbarometer.de) or the "shepherds' barometer" is the first online platform where priests can be rated for their performance at church services, on projects for youths and the elderly, on their credibility and on how up to date they are.

"Pastoral work should be qualitative," Andreas Hahn, one of the founders said of the original idea behind the site, adding they hoped "to stimulate dialogue to improve pastoral work."

Also, "many parishes work well but their performance doesn't become public," Hahn said of the platform's function.

He hoped the site could also contribute to some kind of an early alert system, so that potential problems might be recognized before they become actual problems.

Launched in April, the site has been well received by users. "We are overwhelmed by our own success," Hahn said. With 25,000 parishes and some 8,000 priests registered so far and the option to add more, the site's reach is growing.

But while the site has proven a hit with users, reaction from the Roman Catholic church, which has been rocked by abuse allegations in the past year and witnessed a record number of parishioners leaving the church, has been more muted.

Neither the archbishopric in Berlin nor the German conference of bishops wanted to comment on the website.

The protestant church said that it found the rising interest in public feedback as embodied by the hirtenbarometer concept a "positive development," according to a recent press release.

Ratings for priests on the site are represented by sheep, whose woolly coats range from white to black to visually express a priest's rating. The pope and other prominent German priests so far sport light to middle grey wool.

(Reporting by Kalina Oroschakoff, editing by Paul Casciato)

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