The Catholic Church in Germany continued its dialogue process with a conference in Hanover on Friday. Under the motto "The civilization of love – our responsibility in a free society", 300 participants from all German dioceses will discuss the social and political commitment of the church as well as internal church ies, including representatives from religious orders and associations as well as 33 local and auxiliary bishops.
The Catholic Church in Germany wants to seek "building blocks for a civilization of love," said Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, president of the German Bishops' Conference, at the start of the forum. There should be controversy and everything should be addressed. But one should not expect that there will be an answer to all questions at once. The controversial ie of remarried divorcees, for example, will also be discussed, the conference chairman said.
At the same time, he warned against misinterpreting the event as a parliament or a synod. No votes would take place and no majority decisions would be made. Rather, it is a matter of developing the "new culture of dialogue" in the Church. Nevertheless, Hanover should not remain without consequences. "This is not about catching resolutions, but it is about results that can be grasped by everyone."
Bode for courageous discussion of church sexual teachings
The Catholic Bishop of Osnabruck, Franz-Josef Bode, has called on the church to strive for more closeness to the living situation of people today. This is especially true when dealing with remarried divorcees and the ie of sexuality, said Bode on Friday in Hanover. "It is a matter of urgency to me that we move forward on these ies."What is needed is "a new and courageous, differentiated and in-depth discussion of the Church's sexual doctrine," according to the chairman of the Pastoral Commission of the German Bishops' Conference. He expressed himself in a keynote speech at the second discussion forum of the Catholic Church.
"The general and permanent exclusion of remarried divorcees from receiving the sacraments seems to many, even in the midst of the Church, to be an unacceptable consequence," said Bode. "Remarried people are not simply excommunicated, as is often thought," he affirmed. For people from failed marriages a completely new attention must be created, he said. "If this succeeds, we can also not pass over the question of access to the sacraments," said Bode.
The church "wants and must preserve the testimony of God's faithfulness in the indissolubility of marriage proclaimed by Jesus" as a precious good, the bishop emphasized. At the same time, it should and wants to set signs of God's mercy, which also offers failed people a new opportunity, Bode said.
Overbeck on the role of women in the church
In his keynote address, Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen called for the church to be given a stronger "female face as well. It was often women in particular who brought their "creativity and wisdom, their energetic commitment and solidarity-based assets" to the church. Therefore, more women must also take on leadership functions in the Church. But this must be about positions that are not connected with priestly ordination, Overbeck emphasized.
Furthermore, the bishop pointed out that the orientations on sexuality and marriage proclaimed by the church were less heard today in the diversity of society. With regard to homosexual partnerships, Overbeck emphasized: "If the church cannot recognize this way of life as an institution, it forbids any defamation and unjust relegation of people of the same sex and demands respect and pastoral support for them."
Marx calls for redefinition of the Church's own commitment
In his keynote speech, Munich Cardinal Reinhard Marx said that the guiding question for the church today must be: "How can we keep the social and political stance of the church always connectable to our society without becoming arbitrary?"The archbishop of Munich and Freising said that the church's guiding principle must always be to stand up for the poor and the socially disadvantaged.
Marx also called for a redefinition of the church's own commitment. The Caritas Association must be sure of its self-image. Caritas must take care "not to appear and be perceived as a mere lobbyist" for its own institutions, the cardinal said. For the Caritas Association, it is important to respond to the current emergencies and not to follow the refinancing possibilities.
Church dialogue with 80 "iPads
At the discussion process in Hanover, "iPads" serve as central technical working material. Two tablet computers are available at each of the nearly 40 round tables in the hall of a hotel, at which the 300 or so participants of the congress are seated, distributed in groups. The talks about the future of the church and its work in the world should be made transparent and vivid, explained the secretary of the German Bishops' Conference, Father Hans Langendorfer, at the beginning of the event in Hanover on Friday.
Participants can enter their statements directly during the debates. These appear both on a screen and can also be viewed and collected by everyone else on the small computers. The goal, he said, is to be able to bundle and present results at the end in this way as well. "It should become concrete," said Langendorfer.
With the two-day conference, the Catholic Church is continuing its dialogue process, which was started last year in Mannheim. The bishops had initiated the dialogue process in response to the abuse scandal in 2010 in order to regain trust.