Pope Benedict XVI. has congratulated U.S. President Barack Obama on his re-election. In his congratulatory message, he reminded him of his great responsibility for his own country as well as for the international community. He will pray for success in second term, he said. Obama himself keeps his Christian faith in private as much as possible.

Pope Benedict XVI. exhorted the U.S. president to hold fast to the ideals of liberty and justice that would have guided his country's founding fathers.

Christina Cherry

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.

Christina Cherry
North-south divide

Same-sex wedding couples as cake figures © Wolfgang Kumm

The Bundestag passed "marriage for all" on Friday. In many European countries, marriage between homosexual partners is already enshrined in law. But not all states are following the trend, for example in Eastern Europe.

On the "Old Continent" of Europe, marriage law has been changing in a serious way for years. Now this also applies to Germany. The Bundestag decided on Friday in Berlin that homosexual couples in Germany will be able to marry in the future.

Christina Cherry

Benedict XVI. did not have too good an impression of the country "down under" shortly after his election as pope. The big churches are in danger of dying out, especially in Australia, he said during a speech to Italian priests in 2005. This trend can also be seen in Europe, but less so in the USA. Quite possibly, Australia's top Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, had the pope's support during the Catholic World Youth Day in Sydney on 12. to 21. July wants to convince of the opposite.

Christina Cherry

The German Ethics Council has condemned the treatment of intersexual people in the past and recommended compensation for the consequences of operations. The auxiliary bishop of Augsburg Dr. Anton Losinger is a member of the ethics council and explains in our site interview the background to the decision.

Interviewer: Intersex people are born that way. That is, this body is given to them. Is this "third gender" then according to the Christian doctrine of creation just as natural as man and woman??

Christina Cherry

Father Rainer Maria Schiebler (l.) © Sebastian Widmann (KNA)

The Munich Catholic priest and best-selling author Rainer Maria Schiebler expects the trend of church departures to continue. But he also has an idea of how the church could be more present with the people again.

Church departures are likely to massively affect the cities, but the rural pastoral will also feel the departure, Schiebler told the Munich "Abendzeitung" (Tuesday). For him, however, this development is more a cause for departure than for resignation. "Now it is necessary to show that church wants to be nothing but home, which is open to everyone, no more and no less."

Christina Cherry