Revered and opposed

Revered and opposed

When Fulda's Archbishop Johannes Dyba died, 5 lined up.000 people his funeral procession. But the conservative churchman had also drawn sharp criticism with provocative statements on homosexuality and abortion.

He did not shy away from controversy and formulated his positions sharply, sometimes even hurtfully: former Fulda Archbishop Johannes Dyba (1929-2000) left no one cold. The "Khomeini of the Catholic Church" the daily newspaper "taz" called him, while his followers venerate him to this day. When once asked if he could not package his criticism more kindly, Dyba said, "The martyrs did not die because they were so popular."

Not a monument, but a man full of life

Dyba himself died 20 years ago, on 23. July 2000, in Fulda of a sudden heart failure. He turned 70. The burial in a burial chamber in the Cathedral's Chapel of St. John was preceded by a funeral procession, which 5.000 people lined.

Today the "John Dyba Avenue" near the cathedral commemorates him. But Dyba was not a monument, but a fun-loving man. "A friendly host who forced his best liquor on his harshest critics and casually explained to them how wrong they were," the "Suddeutsche Zeitung" wrote of the Berlin native.

Commitment against liberalization of abortion

Dyba fought vigorously against the liberalization of abortion. Abortions were "children's holocaust" for him. And he called the counseling certificates needed for an abortion without punishment "killing licenses". In 1993, Dyba became the first German bishop to order the withdrawal of his diocese's pregnancy counseling centers from the state's system of conflict counseling. In 1999 – six years later – then-Pope John Paul II decreed. such an instruction for the German church.

Dyba also fought vehemently against plans by the then red-green federal government for legal equality for homosexual couples. At the beginning of July 2000, shortly before his death, Dyba wrote in "Der Spiegel" that there was no question of "imported lust boys" in the special protection of the Basic Law for marriage, which is intended to ensure the continuity of the population. At that time, the SPD and the Greens were concerned with making it easier for foreigners to join their homosexual partners. Dyba's statement drew sharp criticism from ruling parties and homosexual associations. Dyba could not prevent the development. On 1. August 2001, the law on registered civil partnerships came into force.

Dyba, who was also Catholic military bishop since 1990, was one of the most prominent representatives of the Catholic Church in Germany. Before taking the helm of the diocese of Fulda for 17 years beginning in 1983, he spent 23 years in the Vatican's diplomatic service, mostly in Africa. The simple faith of people in the poorest conditions fascinated him. It was not without reason that his episcopal motto was: "Filii dei sumus" (We are children of God). In his own words, it was a "climate shock" for him when he returned to Germany in 1983, "not only because I came from the equator to the Rhon".

Formative figure of the diocese

In response to a question from the Catholic News Agency (KNA), the acting bishop of Fulda, Michael Gerber, said Dyba was one of the formative figures of the diocese. He himself had "met numerous people who owe him much for their personal faith". With his way of proclaiming the Gospel and "standing up for the unconditional protection of life," Dyba has influenced and impressed many.

Gerber added, however, that "as a bishop – in the service of unity today – I also see myself as responsible for people who associate strong personal hurts with his person. The disputes were sometimes fierce."

In the meantime, "reconciliation has been achieved" in many places, for example in youth ministry. The Catholic Youth Fulda initiated by Dyba – founded as an alternative to the youth association BDKJ – has "led many people to faith in Jesus Christ and awakened vocations to priestly service and commitment in the church," Gerber said. He pointed out that there is now good cooperation between the various youth associations. In today's pluralistic world, he said, it becomes clear "that God knows very different ways to people's hearts". To the 20. Bishop Gerber will commemorate the 23rd anniversary of Dyba's death. July at 9.00 o'clock celebrate a commemorative service in the Fulda Cathedral.

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Christina Cherry
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