“This is the issue with the people”

Large congregation without personal encounter? One pastor for dozens of congregations? The pastoral path for the future in the Archdiocese of Cologne remains a challenge. After all, the restructuring is to be completed by 2030.

Interviewer: The interest at the moment is mainly in the clarification of sexualized violence in the archdiocese of Cologne in the past. Is this also a reason why the special meeting of the Diocesan Pastoral Council on the Pastoral Way Forward was canceled?

Guido Zimmermann (District Dean Euskirchen, member of the Pastoral Way Forward): I already think to myself. I believe that almost all members of the Diocesan Pastoral Council have one topic at the moment: That is coming to terms with the abuse. We are concerned about that. We are worried about our archdiocese. And I think that on Saturday we all would not have had the head to deal with the Pastoral Way Forward. The topic of abuse, I believe, has come like mildew on our archdiocese and also on the work of the diocesan pastoral council. In this respect, I think that last Saturday the topic of the Pastoral Way Forward would not have been the right topic. In that sense, that was a reason to cancel this meeting.

Interviewer: How to continue? There is yes on 27. March the next regular meeting. What will it be about?

Zimmermann: In March, it should really be about the abuse study, it will be published a few days before. This study, this independent study will then be the main ie. So in the first half of 2021 we will suspend the topic of the Pastoral Way Forward and then hopefully in the second half of the year we will be able to continue with it.

Interviewer: At what stage is the pastoral path of the future in the Archdiocese of Cologne??

Carpenter: The topic I'm hearing now, and what's really being hotly debated, is what does the parish of the future look like? That's what I'm experiencing as a pastor in parishes. When they're not talking about abuse, this is the topic that's on people's minds. The diocesan pastoral council has asked that we think about this again. There was then a working group under Auxiliary Bishop Puff, which has now also worked out alternative proposals to what was presented to us in the Pastoral Way Forward, namely, instead of a parish, perhaps to leave the parish association in place.

I experience this here in the rural area, where I am pastor of 26 parishes. That's the ie with people. I also believe that we would be breaking up structures that are still functioning well by doing this. That's why I was quite happy and grateful that the archbishop installed this working group. Now there are the first ideas. Perhaps the only positive thing about postponing the ie is that we have even more time to look further into it and into these alternative proposals that are out there.

Interviewer: The big goal is in the year 2030. Are you confident that it can still be held?

Carpenter: Yes, I hope so. If there are good alternative proposals now and we can take the people with us, I believe that we will also reach the year 2030. I think we are all aware of the fact that we have to achieve this, because external things move us, force us to make decisions now. Corona conditionally this is strengthened again.

Interviewer: What else is being done in between sessions that the public doesn't even hear that much about?

Zimmermann: There are the working groups that are still going on now, where they are also continuing to think about it. There is the working group under Auxiliary Bishop Puff that I mentioned. There are small groups that continue to meet in a corona-compliant way, with video conferencing and so on. And they think about and push forward the things that are important in the Pastoral Way Forward.

The interview was conducted by Gerald Mayer.

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Christina Cherry
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