“An important building block”

In the future, victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Saarland will also be able to apply for compensation from a state agency. Prime Minister Tobias Hans announced this after a meeting with the dioceses of Speyer and Trier.

The state government has "created the possibility that victims of abuse who do not want to turn to church agencies can report to a state agency," according to a statement from the state chancellery. Thus one gladly takes up "the cooperation request" of the diocese Trier.

Government spokeswoman Anne Funk explained in response to a question from the Catholic News Agency (KNA) that the state contact point for victims of sexual abuse, also within the Catholic Church, in Saarland is the state office for social affairs. There, "applications and procedures according to the victim compensation law would be processed centrally".

The state grants "victims of acts of violence in principle on application care according to the Victims Compensation Act". An "act of violence" is an intentional, unlawful assault against a human being, he said. This included all sexual offenses, including sexual abuse of children and adolescents that occurred without the use of physical force.

High number of unreported cases

Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier said the latest nationwide study of abuse had "once again brought home the extent of the crime in the area of the Catholic Church, even if we must ame that the number of unreported cases is higher".

He said the bishops also wanted the study "to get information about 'Catholic specifics' that encourage abuse". The reappraisal must now take place with independent partners and experts, with the involvement of those affected, he said. Speyer Bishop Karl-Heinz Wiesemann added that cooperation with state investigative authorities was "an important building block for us". Bishops pledged "full cooperation" in this effort.

"Maintaining "basic services

The meeting between Minister President Hans and the dioceses also dealt with the planned formation of large parishes. Hans urged the church to proceed prudently. "Basically, the people of Saarland expect a safe and sustainable form of spiritual offerings in their community through the Catholic Church," said Hans. According to Hans, a functioning church community life is part of the "basic supply".

This is especially true for rural areas. The churches are still the center of the village in most villages in the Saarland. Church services create community and contribute to cohesion, according to Hans.

Honorary offices still important

In rural areas in particular, voluntary work that is linked to church structures continues to play an important role. Without local roots, there is a danger that honorary positions will no longer be taken on and existing honorary positions will be resigned.

"A dissolution of this civic quality would significantly weaken the cohesion and viability of our villages," the prime minister stressed. The diocese's plans are "perfectly compatible with people's desire for closeness, if pastors are relieved of administrative tasks and once again find more time for people seeking counsel," Hans stated.

"Keep the church in the village?"

Up to now, church life in the diocese of Trier has been organized into 887 parishes, which are grouped into 172 parish communities. From 2020, there will be 35 "parishes of the future". This is intended to implement the decisions of the diocesan synod that ended in 2016. The majority of the Saarland belongs to the diocese of Trier, only the Saarpfalz district is part of the diocese of Speyer.

Trier's Vicar General Ulrich Graf von Plettenberg sees the establishment of the new parishes as a challenging process. "This leads to uncertainty and fear. Many people ask whether the church remains in the village. We can clearly affirm that." It is "important to the diocese that there is a reliable pastoral care offer, with church services and the administration of the sacraments".

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Christina Cherry
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