Where the spirit of windthorst and remmers blows

Where the spirit of windthorst and remmers blows

20 years ago, the German bishops met in Lingen. At that time, the focus was on conflict counseling for pregnant women. Abuse will dominate deliberations this year. Lingen seems to be good for difficult topics.

This time, the Catholic pastors are meeting in a rather small town: the German Bishops' Conference is coming to its spring plenary meeting from 11 to 11 September in Osnabruck. to 14. March in Lingen, Emsland. The committee, which currently consists of 26 diocesan bishops and 41 auxiliary bishops, deliberates in the Catholic Social Academy "Ludwig-Windthorst-Haus" (LWH) of the Osnabruck diocese. Together with staff, advisors and the press cortege, the high clergy will form a stately group that can be sure of the attention of the residents of Lingen.

Largest city in the district of Emsland

The city has around 54.000 inhabitants and is thus already the largest in the district of Emsland. The surrounding area is rural. The population density is about 150 inhabitants per square kilometer. The region on the western edge of Lower Saxony on the border with the Netherlands is named after the river Ems, which runs through it, and is characterized by extensive areas of moorland. Nevertheless, Emsland has developed at an above-average rate in recent decades, as a recent study confirmed. The border region is flourishing, with the Catholic Church playing a major role through its civic involvement in clubs and associations.

The people of Emsland are energetic and close to their homeland – and mostly Catholic. Two-thirds of the population here belong to the Catholic Church. A home game for their highest representatives, one might think. And yet the wind is blowing in the face of the church here, too. The ie of abuse of minors by clergy has been close to people's hearts since December at the latest, when Osnabruck Bishop Franz-Josef Bode made public the offenses committed by a now 85-year-old priest in the 1970s to 1990s in several places in the region.

Bishops discuss abuse processing

Abuse and coming to terms with the cases will then also be the topic of the plenary assembly. Some bishops call for new convictions and attitudes deep into the structures of the church, for example on church sexual morality. And they are sure that the topic will accompany the church for a long time.

Already once, in February 1999, the plenary assembly met in Lingen. Even then, the days were a hard slog and a reflection on their own convictions. Pope John Paul II. Had called on bishops to stop iing counseling vouchers to women seeking abortions during pregnancy counseling. Many bishops wanted to keep the Catholic institutions in the state counseling system, but eventually dropped out. At the same time, Catholics founded the Donum Vitae pregnancy counseling association, which continues to ie the controversial bill.

From 1999, just seven bishops are still involved today. Osnabruck's Bishop Bode, deputy DBK chairman, is among them the only one who was already diocesan bishop at that time. The current conference chairman, Munich's Cardinal Reinhard Marx, and Bamberg's Archbishop Ludwig Schick were present at the meeting as auxiliary bishops. The others are the auxiliary bishops Otto Georgens (Speyer), Bernhard Hablberger (Munich) Thomas Maria Renz (Stuttgart) and Nikolaus Schwerdtfeger (Hildesheim).

Place for difficult ies

Lingen is probably good for difficult topics. Perhaps this is due to the spirit that permeates the Ludwig-Windthorst-Haus (LWH) conference center. One is that of Ludwig Windthorst (1812-1891), who gave the institute its name. The Center politician and Reichstag deputy for the Meppen-Lingen-Bentheim constituency fought against the discrimination of Catholics in the Kulturkampf and thus became Bismarck's most important opponent.

On the other hand, the work of Werner Remmers (1930-2011) can still be felt here. The CDU politician and Lower Saxony's minister of education, science and the environment was director of the then newly founded house from 1962 to 1976. He lies buried in Lingen. The six guidelines of the LWH can be traced back to this "doer": learning to distinguish, living humanely, being attentive, acting responsibly, being hospitable and acting competently. They could give the 70 high masters the direction for their deliberations.

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Christina Cherry
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