Tuesday, May 22, 2012



The German Church is holding its bi-annual meeting, more commonly known as Katholikentag, in Mannheim, with over 30 thousand participants and guests assembled to discuss, worship, celebrate and share the current state of the Church in Pope Benedict XVI’s homeland. Before listening to a report from Jesuit Father Bernd Hagenkord who heads Vatican Radio’s German Programme and who’s currently in Mannheim Veronica Scarisbrick shines the spotlight for a moment on this organisation as well as take a look at Pope Benedict’s recent words to the members of this organisation .

As we know from the 22-25 September 2011 Pope Benedict visited Germany. The choice of cities on this second visit back to the homeland included the nation’s capital Berlin ( this was his first official visit to the nation) , Erfurt the land of Luther and finally Freiburg, the city whose inhabitants decided in 1520 not to take part in the Reformation, proving their independence from outside influence. The city was not named Freiburg meaning “free borough” for nothing.

It was here in what is Catholic territory in the South West tip of Germany, ruled for centuries by the Catholic Habsburgs that he dedicated time to this lay organization which in Germany wields a lot of influence. Even Catholic members of Parliament adhere to it.

The Katholikentag then as it’s popularly referred to is an organisation called 'Zentralkomitee derr Deutschen Katholiken' , or 'Central Committee of German Catholics ' led by its President Mr Alois Gluck. A lay apostolate founded in 1952 which grew out of an earlier 19th century movement. One which seamlessly combines independence with loyalty to the Church, and commitment within the Church with social and political action.

While in Germany the Holy Father addressed representatives of this lay apostolate , speaking to them of new evangelization. On this occasion among the other issues he touched on was that of how high standards of living do not exclude poverty in human relations and poverty in the religious sphere.

But on Thursday Benedict XVI also addressed the current Katholikentag gathering in Mannheim. Picking up on new evangelization he began by quoting the motto of this meeting : “ Daring to begin afresh'. A renewal which stems from God, the Pope said must always follow a personal path which leads to God . We are called to grow in faith as well as live accordingly in our daily lives. But we are not alone or isolated from others. We believe together and within the community of the Church. The path to God begins for all faithful both within and with the Church .

This 98th Katholikentag, Benedict XVI went on to say is in a sense the first step towards the Year of Faith called to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the opening session of the Second Vatican Council .

Having touched there briefly on Pope Benedict’s words, we now bring you Jesuit Father Bernd Hagenkord’s report :
"The book containing all the events of this „Katholikentag“ is nearly 600 pages long, all 1.200 events show the breadth and length of the catholic Church in Germany. There are lectures and discussions, there are presentations and new initiatives, and as during every „Katholikentag“ the city is strewn with white tents, every one of them containing an initiative, parish, diocese, association, or other catholic organization. Ecumenism, mission, parish organization, moral theology, music, social responsibility: There seems to be no topic not represented here. The whole four day meeting is framed by liturgies and prayer-services.

A particular focus this year is local Church. For lack of money, of priests many parishes have had to be merged with other parishes, creating administrative units rather than living communities. So the focus is on how to make this work and how to bring to life this changing structure with new initiatives or ideas.

This meeting of Catholics shows the signs of the times. Alois Gluck, president of the German Catholics lay council which organizes the „Katholikentag“, comments during a press conference on the character of the event. It shows the signs of the times to the church as well as the contribution the Church can make to the society. The event wants to inspire all those coming here.

This seems to be a rather necessary thing, since the Church perceives itself as being in crisis. After the sex-abuse scandals and the loss of significant numbers of Catholics, many perceive the church as being stale or numb, without answers to today’s crisis or challenges. Therefore the title of the meeting is „Aufbruch“ - meaning departure as well as new start. The Church - hierarchy as well as laity - want to find a way out of what Alois Gluck called the inner blockade in many questions. The price to pay is to give up a lot of much-loved customs or structures. However, this is necessary to move the Church forward. How to do this: to discuss that is what this Katholikentag is for. "


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