People in eastern Germany do not place much trust in the Christian churches, according to a recent Forsa survey. The diocese of Dresden-Meissen, among others, is researching the causes – and looking to the future.
Interviewer: Only 13 percent of people in the east trust the Catholic Church – in the west, the figure is 30 percent. Does this survey result surprise you??
Thomas Arnold (Director of the Catholic Academy of the Diocese of Dresden-Meissen): No, it does not surprise me at all. But I am pleased that 13 percent of people in eastern Germany trust the church, although only three to four percent of people in the east belong to this church. This means that an institution is trusted, at least by people who otherwise have nothing to do with faith and the church. And on the positive side, this also means that our institution has an impact on society and is perceived as such. But of course, from 13 to 100 percent is still quite some air.
Interviewer: Can you explain why people in the East trust churches so much less than those in the West??
Arnold: In fact, there are several factors at play. A colleague once told me that the GDR had not achieved much, but that what it had achieved was to make religion and faith look ridiculous. I believe that this is an experience that has been in this region for several generations. You're just not taken seriously. There is not even a big opposition. That is one factor.
A second factor is that if few people in a society belong to a church, then naturally fewer people will stand up for this institution and the faith. The perception is simply much lower than, for example, in the Rhineland, where somehow everyone is connected with church and has an opinion about it.
The third point, where we also have to reproach ourselves, is where we have become guilty in recent years and decades. In recent years, the media have strongly brought up the ies surrounding the Limburg bishop's seat with Tebartz-van-Elst or sexual abuse. This has also increased the loss of confidence. But even in GDR times, churches sometimes did not only do good, but entered into an unpleasant relationship with the state, which is then also carried along as a violation and where also an incredible amount of trust was lost.
Interviewer: What does the church in the east want to do about it??
Arnold: You convince most with an authentic life as a witness for Christ. That is the task. I am firmly convinced that the pastoral conceptions here in the diocese are taking this path, that the parishes in Dresden-Meissen, in Saxony and in the whole East are going out and also learning to be meaningful in a society that has nothing to do with faith. On the other hand, it is also frightening that a society places an incredible amount of trust in doctors, i.e., in a technical feasibility. So we have to ask ourselves why the trust is placed in these "gods in white" but not really in God himself.
The interview was conducted by Milena Furman.