“My message bears the name of jesus christ”

The future Archbishop of Cologne, Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki, faced questions from the press on Wednesday in his home parish of Cologne. Here are the main questions and answers and the video of the press conference.

The main topics

Cardinal Woelki: I must first arrive and get to know the diocese anew. What will certainly be important things are the refugee problem and the situation as it presents itself to us in NRW. I'll try to address one or two things tomorrow when I swear in Minister President Kraft and also make it clear that it's not enough just to say that the Interior Ministers' Conference will take over the accommodation and medical costs, but that the conditions will then really be created so that family reunions are possible here. The question is how we can succeed in integrating the refugees here with us. I will also talk about this with our Caritas.

But the most important task is to give the Gospel a face, to give Christ a face. For me as a bishop, I want to make the Gospel present. I am not a politician, and I do not come on behalf of any party or ideology. My message bears the name of Jesus Christ. From this, of course, an ethic develops, and part of this is that we must try to translate the faith in such a way that it can be and is attractive to people today. If they have not yet come to know the Christian faith, experience it as convincing and exciting. This potential needs to be raised, and that includes exercising the option for the poor, trying to take a stand on pro-life and right-to-life ies, not just not being able to say we are z.B. against assisted suicide, but that we also show through our commitment that dying is a part of life. That it is part of life, and that it is better to die at the hand of a man than by the hand of a man. We must engage as a church in the challenges of social ies, in the refugee and poverty problems. These will be important points to address here in the diocese.

On the Catholic world in the 1960s and today

Cardinal Woelki: My parish and my faith have shaped me, they have given my life a direction, through them important questions of life have been answered for me. 2014 is no longer 1966. In this respect, my experiences at that time cannot be copied, and that would not be a sustainable model for today either. We have to look at the life situations of families and young people today and try to find answers that answer the questions that are relevant for people today. There we will be asked. I don't know if youth work can still be done today the way it was back then. At that time, there was no soccer club, nor was there an ash field. To play soccer or table tennis, you went to church here. Cinema was also out of the question, so people met here in the community on Sunday afternoons, where films were shown for 50 pfennigs. Mediapark and IPads and tablets and other forms of communication and social media did not exist. Things that we thought were good back then are no longer even possible today. We have to see how, in the face of these challenges, young people can be given an answer that is compatible with their lives and takes their attitude to life seriously. But this is given out of the gospel. That is what we tried to do for this time, and that is what we must try to do today.

The answer is of course always the same in essence. Throughout the ages, the Gospel has always been equally relevant and exciting. But the way there and the mediation is different from 50 years ago, and in 50 years it will be different from today. We must make much more use of the opportunities that are available to us.B. are given in the open all-day. There are a lot of young people who have already come together. The tension here is that young people may be withdrawn from the congregations, and an answer must be found as to how territorial congregations will be organized in the future and what opportunities they will have. Churches will always have to be organized territorially, by their very nature they cannot be organized any other way. But I doubt whether communities can still function as they did 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago, given the mobility and the different interests.

Behind this is also the problem of being at home and rooted locally, these are problems and questions that we must address. I am convinced: Before I don't even get young people involved in a congregation, I prefer to let them come into contact with the Gospel while they are still at school. Whether that is in the congregation, in the school, or in the open all-day program, it doesn't matter. The main thing is that they discover their Christianity and, when it comes to their education or studies, they are strengthened in such a way that they can then experience church again in student communities and in other places. That is the most important goal.

The battle of the religions

Cardinal Woelki: The most important thing is that one knows about the other, that one knows the other, and that one is in conversation with the other. In Berlin, I learned how important it is to live together in tolerance and how crucial it is to talk together: The Christian-Jewish, the Christian-Muslim dialogue. Religion as an instrument for exercising power is not to be tolerated. What is happening right now in the Islamic world: I have the impression that what happened to the Christians during the Thirty Years' War and the terrible things they did is happening there. Such a thing is to be deeply abhorred: religion as a means of power and oppression of others, that has no place here with us. We live in a free democratic constitutional state that grants everyone freedom of religion, and that's a good thing. But as Christians, we should also make sure that this freedom of religion is also given to us everywhere and that it comes to us.

The Berlin Years

Cardinal Woelki: Berlin is still very close to me and the people are still very close to me, especially those with whom I was associated in Caritas and in the attempt to build up a pastoral ministry in Berlin that is in keeping with the times. These people are very close to me, and I also know that many are suffering and disappointed that I am going to Cologne. We could have done many more positive things there. I brought with me the view from a city where Catholics are in the minority. The different religions have a good coexistence there and stand up for a peaceful coexistence in all differences. They have agreed on a code of values, each coming from a different tradition. That connects and is in many areas a peaceful solidary togetherness. What is important is the commitment of Caritas Berlin in social ies and the refugee problem, there we have been very leading in Berlin. We have initiated a round table, have brought politics together and made it possible to talk in the first place. These are things that have made me grow and mature inwardly with these people and that have also made me emotionally connected with them on a human level.

The role of the laity

Cardinal Woelki: The Church consists almost exclusively of lay people. That there is someone like me is only thanks to them. If it did not exist, I would not be needed. I have only one specific function, which is important, and which is indispensable. The celebration of the liturgy is one of the essential characteristics of the Church. We are all called to praise God, and one person is doing an important service on behalf of all, which makes it possible for God to give us his salvation. Beyond that, we are all called upon as a church to live our Christianity. At work, in public and in politics. That is why I regret very much that fewer and fewer Christians are present in politics and take on political offices. I would like to remind you how much the old Federal Republic was shaped by Christians, especially with regard to social legislation. It is a great contribution that the Catholic Church has made here through its laity. It is only possible in cooperation and for each other. We are all members of one body. Everyone who is missing makes this body more imperfect and less alive. We can only do this by working together, and that is why we need to talk to each other in a reasonable and trusting way. I am confident that we will succeed. We have a common goal and a common message. The Council emphasized very clearly that the Church as a whole is apostolic, that is, that everyone participates in the apostolic mission by virtue of baptism and confirmation. And thus also in proclamation and witness and in diaconal action. I am very hopeful.

On the career of women

Cardinal Woelki: I have nothing at all against women and careers; in Berlin we have had a number of women who have worked in important positions and who have also been on the advisory board. We have to see how we can do the same in Cologne. This is an important topic.


Cardinal Woelki: Homosexuals belong to the Church just like all other baptized people. I do not reduce anyone to their sexual orientation. We will speak to all who are of good will. As Catholic Christians, however, we have the preference of a sacramental marriage between a man and a woman, which is open to the child. This is our way of life, and we stand for it. In this we see ourselves in conformity with Sacred Scripture.


Cardinal Woelki: Modesty has always belonged to the Church. This is an important impulse of Pope Francis for the whole Church and also for us in Germany. The German Church has done a lot for the poor in this world. When I think of Misereor and Adveniat, Renovabis and Missio. The Archdiocese of Cologne supports projects in 99 countries around the world. The archdiocese pays z.B. the entire priestly formation in Brazil. But, of course, we live here in very secure conditions of prosperity, even as a church. We will also have to ask ourselves what it means in Germany to be a poor church for the poor.

For me personally, it is important to be and remain as normal as possible. To live the processes of everyday life that are given to every family, to every single person and to every pensioner.

Critical Christians and Cardinal Meisner

Cardinal Woelki: I am less a man of the past than a man of the present and the future. I do not want to dwell so much on the past. I want to try to think into the present and into the future. I will make an effort that we come into conversation with each other, that even those who disagree know that it is possible to wrestle with each other. This should be possible in the future, and my task as bishop is to be a bridge builder. I have to try to keep the different fringes in the diocese together and at least situate them so that they find a home in the spectrum of what constitutes the Catholic Church. That is certainly not easy, but it is part of a bishop's task. We will strive to answer all serious inquiries as well. I hope that this will succeed. But often the good will is there, and still someone gets no answer sometimes.

On the family synod

Cardinal Woelki: We have a very large department of marriage and family in the archdiocese, where we try to be there for the families and to organize something through the most diverse measures. Marriage and family counseling helps where families get into difficult situations. We need to empower young people to live in a marriage and a family. We must ask ourselves how children can learn what faithfulness is, what reliability and partnership are. Many young people no longer experience what we mean by Christian marriage and family. This is where we have to start in a very practical assistance with a view to personality development. How does partnership and tolerance? How to be faithful? When you talk to young people, you hear all these old values! And there is the challenge to give answers in advance on the part of the youth and school chaplaincy. We also have to learn.

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Christina Cherry
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