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German Church needs urgent reform

A German group working for Church reform has written to the German Catholic Bishops Conference, asking for "an honest disclosure of the state of the Church in Germany".

Co Presidents of the German branch of the international We are Church movement, Sigrid Grabmeier, Karl Graml and Christian Weisner wrote an open letter to the German Bishops late last month, which was translated for Online Catholics by Jim Taverne, of Australian Reforming Catholics (ARC).

The writers say that the Church in Germany suffers from "widespread feelings of hopelessness", as evidenced by the large numbers of Catholics who have left the Church because of a lack of structural reform and exclusion from decision making.

The letter also criticizes the practice of importing priests and seminarians from developing countries as a means of addressing the priest shortage. In Germany as in Australia, the importation of foreign priests can lead to problems in communication and theological emphasis. The German Catholics believe that instead of importing foreign priests, the Church ought to utilize the laity:

"Due to the fast growing shortage of priests, the pastoral role is in a state of enormous upheaval for which the Church in Germany is not prepared... Instead of showing trust in the competence of the ordinary Catholics and giving them more responsibility, time and time again priest-centred concepts of pastoral roles are introduced, which disguise the imminent collapse of the pastoral care and the parish structures and prove to be a cul-de-sac. The stopgap in this serious difficulty by foreign priests is no solution!"

We are Church go on to ask the German Bishops to consider specific actions for the recovery of German Catholicism:

* to strengthen the so-called laity in their involvement in the passing on of the faith and to take the shortage of priests as a chance for a new awareness of co- and self-responsibility in the parish.

* to see the yearning of women as the sign of their identification with the Church. Especially the visions of women for a renewed priestly ministry offers opportunities for a pastorship directed to the future.

* to grant the youth - also with the preparation for the Catholic World Youth Day 2005 - free space for formation possibilities and self-responsibility, because only that will be successful in bringing about the feeling of being at home in the Church .

* to acknowledge the commitment of critical Catholics as a clear sign of their love for the Church and an alternative to actual or internal exile.

* to seize the special responsibility for the Ecumene in our country, where the Reformation originated, and to publish a declaration on the convergence of beliefs as a step on the way to unity.

The We are Church movement has a presence in some 40 countries. It began in Austria in 1995 and spread quickly to Germany, Belgium, Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, Catalunya, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, France, Great Britain, Holland, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the USA, and Venezuela. The movement sought a more democratic and inclusive Church, optional celibacy, a more positive attitude to human sexuality and a renewed theological emphasis on Gospel joy. Their current Manifesto was established in 1997.

We are Church in Germany concluded their plea to their Bishops by asking that the laity and the episcopate work together, using the words of the Apostle in 1 Corinthians: "We have no wish to lord it over your faith, but to work with you for your joy".

"The Aggiornamento of the Church is to acknowledge the "spirit of the time" and to preach credibly and convincingly the liberating message of Jesus. This can only happen in communio between the Church leaders and the people, which - since the Second Vatican Council became the unrenounceable life principle of the Church," the We are Church letter concludes.

See also:

  • German Bishops Conference
  • We are Church
  • The Manifesto











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