“I will already make a deliberate cut”

Alois Gluck © Harald Oppitz (KNA)

At the autumn plenary assembly next Friday and Saturday, Alois Gluck will resign as president of the Central Committee of Catholics (ZdK), as announced. In an interview, the 75-year-old takes stock after six years.

CBA: Mr. Gluck, you are a "homo politicus" through and through. Can you stop at all?

Happiness: I will already make a conscious cut. I will remain committed to the expansion of hospice work and palliative medicine and will also deal with major challenges such as the integration of refugees. But now I finally want to start a new phase of my life, which is no longer marked by appointments, meetings and obligations.
CBA: What is on the credit side of your balance sheet?
Happiness: It was a very troubled time within the church. Even when I was elected in November 2009, the relationship between the bishops' conference and lay movements was very tense. A few weeks later, the whole disaster of sexual abuse in the church began to become evident. Thus I have been given a task that I was not prepared for at all.
CBA: Which?
Gluck: Crisis communication. Because there were hardly any contacts at the church, I experienced an onslaught of media as at no time in active politics. In retrospect, it has to be said that without this shock, the loss of trust and the realization that things could no longer go on like this, a whole series of positive changes in the Catholic Church in Germany would not have come about – for example, the dialog process.
CBA: What fruits he has brought?
Happiness: At the beginning, bishops and lay people were skeptical of each other. What is it allowed to say at all, some wondered. What will we hear again, the others?. Then already the first round in Mannheim became a key experience for me. Although more than 300 people from all the dioceses – selected according to very different procedures – were present, the consensus on the assessment of the situation and the need for change was unbelievably great. This surprised me, but also showed me that the Central Committee really does represent the positions of the great majority current in the Church. And then much has grown in the following years.
CBA: How do debates in political parties and parliaments differ from disputes in the church??
Happiness: As recently as 2010, fear-free communication in the Church was not possible for the vast majority, both for the laity and for the bishops among themselves. I had never been particularly interested in internal church ies in the past and was initially quite shocked at how many hurt, resigned and frustrated people I encountered among people involved in the church. Thanks to Pope Francis and our discussion process in Germany, the internal climate has improved a lot. Open debates became possible.
CBA: The pope is extremely popular. Still, people are running away from the church in Germany in droves. How can this trend be stopped?
Happiness: There are no short-term miracle effects. We do not know what the future path of the church will be in the longer term; the profound process of change will continue, but it does not necessarily have to continue in a linear fashion. I am experiencing this right now in Leipzig, where the next Katholikentag is taking place. The strongest age group among active Catholics there is the 20 to 30 year olds. More adults are baptized than children. Maybe some things in the church still have to collapse before something new can develop in such a way that people find access to it.
CBA: Central committee – has this dusty term never bothered you?
Happiness: Many people stumble over the designation. I have often received letters to the president of the Central Council, but that is not our core problem. One thing can already be said about the role of the ZdK: We are partners of the bishops and their conference, this is documented in joint working papers and Catholic Days. We have the task of pushing and integrating. We perceive both.
CBA: Which construction site would you like to have closed?
Luck: What hurts me is that with the Bishops' Conference to date no understanding has been reached on an old wound, on a commitment to Donum Vitae and to the Church. The core task, how can we make the message of the Gospel and Jesus accessible to the people of today's world, challenges us again and again, often leaves us perplexed and is also an ongoing learning process.
CBA: Should a woman once again take the helm?
Happiness: This is what the vote must result in. We have successfully campaigned for the role of women in the church. This will continue to be possible even if a man becomes president again.
CBA: What do you do when you – relieved of your office – close the front door behind you in Chiemgau?
Happiness: I am honestly glad when the many trips and conferences, which also have to be prepared, no longer dominate my daily rhythm. A classical retirement life is however nothing for me, that would make me ill.

The interview was conducted by Christoph Renzikowski.

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