TUTZING, Germany — A bronze statue of St. Joseph, bending protectively over the Holy Family, stands at the center of a bubbling fountain outside the St. Joseph Church in this Bavarian village.
Across a cobblestone courtyard, parishioners show up regularly at the Roman Catholic church’s community center to teach German and math to asylum seekers and refugees. During a recent weeknight service, Ali, a young Afghan, demonstrated his progress, reading aloud a prayer for peace to the congregation.
This tranquil place is also the backdrop for a bitter debate between Germany’s government and its Roman Catholic and Protestant churches over the fates of hundreds of migrants they are sheltering.
Just before Christmas, to stave off their imminent deportations, Ali and another young Muslim moved into the two-room guest apartment on the parish grounds, invoking a Christian practice of seeking protection within a church, a form of asylum known in German as Kirchenasyl.