Catholic Day: Steinmeier regrets loss of importance of the churches

Catholic Day: Steinmeier regrets loss of importance of the churches

20,000 people are expected in Erfurt by Sunday for the 103rd German Catholic Day. It is not an easy time for the church. The Federal President knows this too.

At the beginning of the Catholic Day, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier lamented the loss of importance of the churches and encouraged a self-critical debate about it. The head of state praised the commitment of Christians to democracy and to the poor, the marginalized and the desperate. Therefore, “I can only deeply regret that the churches are experiencing such a great loss of approval and trust,” said Steinmeier in Erfurt. “Yes, the changes are quite dramatic.”

Some of the causes are self-inflicted, “such as the terrible fact of mass abuse and especially the long history of its cover-up,” said Steinmeier. In addition, many people are becoming increasingly alienated and indifferent to religion. “Are the churches not giving enough impetus here?” asked the Federal President. “Is their message too quiet, too pale, too little profile?”

Colorful festival to kick off

For the 103rd German Catholic Day with around 500 events, 20,000 visitors are expected in the Thuringian capital by Sunday, significantly fewer than at previous Catholic Days. A colorful crowd gathered for the opening on Erfurt Cathedral Square – young and old, scouts, pilgrims, nuns and many others.

Sunshine and a few raindrops alternated. A band played, a cabaret artist lightened the mood to start the evening – Steinmeier, Catholic Day President Irme Stetter-Karp and Thuringian Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow also laughed exuberantly.

But there are serious issues on the agenda until Sunday. In addition to church issues such as the abuse scandal and reforms, there will be major issues of the day such as war and peace, populism and democracy.

Pope sees human rights in danger

Pope Francis sent a short greeting and called for social cooperation and dialogue. “Not only in Europe, but also in other parts of the world, fundamental human rights currently seem to be under threat: through increasing anti-Semitism, racism and other ideologies that tend towards extremism and violence,” lamented the head of the Catholic Church. The many moral, social, economic and political crises are all interconnected. “The problems affect everyone and can only be solved together,” he warned.

The chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Georg Bätzing, expects the Catholic Congress to clearly distance itself from the right. “There must be no room for ethnic nationalism in this country,” declared Bätzing. “This signal must also come from the Catholic Congress in Erfurt.” Christians should not react indifferently to the wars and conflicts taking place around the world, he added.

“I am very impatient”

Stetter-Karp, President of the Central Committee of German Catholics and organizer of the Catholic Day, demanded that her church speed up reform. “I am very impatient, and not only I am,” said Irme Stetter-Karp. She expects the bishops and the Pope “to finally turn things around.” The abuse scandal has destroyed trust to a large extent – the church is in crisis.

The Catholic Day is taking place in Erfurt for the first time – and for the first time since 2016 in secular eastern Germany, where Catholic Christians are a small minority. Stetter-Karp said that the Catholic Day is not a home game in Erfurt. “But are there still home games for Catholics in Germany? I think: No.”

Ordained ministry for women?

Erfurt’s Bishop Ulrich Neymeyr also sees a great need for reform, especially with regard to the role of women in the church. “The majority of Catholics in Germany, but also the bishops, would like to see the ordained ministry opened up to women – at least to deacons,” Neymeyr said on ZDF. In the Catholic Church, the ordained offices from deacon to priest to bishop are reserved only for men.

Many politicians have announced that they will be attending in the next few days, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck (Greens). The motto of the meeting is “The future belongs to the person of peace.” The German Bishops’ Conference counts 20.9 million Catholics in Germany. The diocese of Erfurt has around 137,000 church members.

Source: Stern

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