January 29, 2003

I'll tell you, those cable people can be pretty tough.

Reuters earlier this month reported that GEZ, the German television authority, spent months trying to extract payment, eventually determined to be overdue, from one Frau Walburga St of Ramsdorf, a small city near Cologne (Köln).

The GEZ, which collects a fee for every television set in Germany, sent numerous letters to Frau Walburga, delivering bills to the address of a Catholic parish in Ramsdorf.

Apparently frustrated by her lack of response, the GEZ threatened Frau Walburga with a penalty of 1,000 Euros (roughly $1,055).

The problem? "Frau Walburga St" has been dead for more than 1,200 years.

Said Frau is, it turns out, better known as St. Walburga. Born in Wessex, England, circa 710, she was a noted missionary and abbess in Germany in the late 700s. According to most accounts, she died in 779 or 780 at Heidenheim in Swabia. She was canonized in 880.

St. Walburga is a patron saint invoked against coughs, dog bites, famine, plague, rabies, and storms, and on behalf of harvests, mariners, and sailors, and the cities of Antwerp and Oudenarde, Belgium, and Gronigen and Zutphen, the Netherlands. St. Walburga's father and siblings are also saints of the Catholic Church: St. Richard the King, and Sts. Willibald and Winebald, respectively.

According to Reuters, Father Kart Terhorst, the pastor of the Ramsdorf parish, at first ignored the GEZ's correspondence, but eventually contacted authorities after they threatened legal action.

"This was quite embarrassing," admitted the GEZ's Eckhard Ohliger. "Unfortunately, mistakes happen."

That's exactly what I keep telling them. They're not buying the dead saint part, though.

[Picked up via the February 1 edition of the National Catholic Register. No link is available to the specific article.]


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