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Steinmeier sees churches undergoing “epochal change”

Importance is fading
Steinmeier sees churches undergoing “epochal change”

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More and more people are turning their backs on the church. According to Federal President Steinmeier, this is due to a great loss of support and trust. He believes that the churches have a duty to offer the many believers something again. The calls for reform from the ranks of Catholics are not abating.

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has lamented the loss of importance of the churches and encouraged a self-critical debate about it. Christians have an important role to play with their commitment to democracy and to the poor, the marginalized and the desperate. “I can only deeply regret that the churches are experiencing such a great loss of approval and trust,” he said at the start of the Catholic Convention in Erfurt. “One must speak of an epochal change.” The reasons for this are “the terrible fact of mass abuse and especially the long history of its cover-up.”

In addition, there is a growing alienation and “strange indifference” in parts of society towards religion and towards what points beyond life. Steinmeier also asked whether the churches share responsibility for this phenomenon. “Are the churches giving too little impetus here? Is their message too quiet, too pale, too little profile?” There are quite a few people who are seriously searching for meaning and direction in their lives. “Our critical question to ourselves, as Christians and as a church, must be: Do these seriously searching people find convincing answers, do they find spiritual competence, do they find empathetic support in our groups, congregations and initiatives?”

In Thuringia, even as head of state, you should always have one hand free - for the bratwurst. In Thuringia, even as head of state, you should always have one hand free - for the bratwurst.

In Thuringia, even as head of state, you should always have one hand free – for the bratwurst.

(Photo: picture alliance/dpa)

“I am very impatient”

The 103rd German Catholic Congress in Erfurt lasts until Sunday. Around 20,000 participants are expected to attend around 500 events in the Thuringian capital. The motto of the meeting is the Psalm verse “The future belongs to the man of peace.” The President of the Central Committee of German Catholics, Irme Stetter-Karp, explained that anyone who takes this saying seriously must seek peace. “We must stand up for peace. Especially in times when war is taking place in Europe and other places in the world.”

She also demanded that her church speed up reform. “I am very impatient, and not just me,” she said. She expects the bishops and the Pope “to finally turn things around.” 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,” he said on ZDF. In the Catholic Church, the ordained offices from deacon to priest to bishop are reserved only for men.

Pope complains about extremism

In a message distributed by the German Bishops' Conference, Pope Francis called on the participants of the Catholic Day to “publicly and politically campaign for better living conditions and to give a voice to those who are not heard in particular.” “Not only in Europe, but also in other parts of the world, fundamental human rights currently seem to be under threat – due to increasing anti-Semitism, racism and other ideologies that tend towards extremism and violence,” the Pope continued. The problems affect everyone and can only be solved together, which requires “a dialogue with as many voices as possible at all levels of social, economic and political life.” The Catholic Day, with its many discussion events, offers “a good opportunity” for this.

Many politicians have announced that they will be attending in the coming days, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck. According to the German Bishops' Conference, there are 20.9 million Catholics in Germany. The diocese of Erfurt has around 137,000 church members.

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