In September, Father Heiner Wilmer is to be consecrated Bishop of Hildesheim. In the interview, he talks about how he plans to deal with the challenges in his new diocese and which soccer club his heart beats for.
CBA: Father Wilmer, you were abroad for many years, most recently in Rome. With which eyes do you see the German church?
Wilmer: From the Roman point of view, the German Church is important because there is a high level of reflection there. The German church is representative of ecumenism – that is, the consideration of how Christians as a whole can grow together and work together.
CBA: And how do you see the diocese of Hildesheim?
Wilmer: With open and shining eyes. The faithful and those in charge of the diocese are very creative. You have broken new ground and obviously enjoy experimenting.
CBA: You have announced that you will be guided especially by the ideas of young people. Why?
Wilmer: I am passionate about education and have spent most of my life working with young people as a teacher. Young people have a freshness that is good for society and the church.
CBA: How do you want to get young people excited about the church again?
Wilmer: You can inspire young people for the church if you are close to them and if you don't judge them, but rather value them and trust them to do something.
CBA: How do they want to deal with declining numbers of Catholics and thus also with declining income from church taxes in the future??
Wilmer: Falling numbers of Catholics are, after all, an ie in all German dioceses. I am approaching this challenge with trust in God, confidence, and a good deal of grit. That the income from church taxes will decrease is true, but overall the German church is already very rich. The diocese of Hildesheim is now also in a good financial position and can move forward with a clear conscience.
KNA: What do you think about large congregations, like the one in the diocese of Hildesheim??
Wilmer: In pastoral care, the focus for me is on the human being and thus on the question of how the individual can go his or her way before God and live in a balanced way. Basically, a community has to be alive, no matter what its structure is.
CBA: Important topic in Hildesheim will continue to be coming to terms with past sexual abuse scandals. How do you think the church should deal with this??
Wilmer: The abuse cases are a very serious ie. The diocese of Hildesheim has taken a good path by having abuse cases investigated by an independent institute. The recommendations of the experts to become even more professional in this field are being implemented – and that is the right thing to do.
Central is also the highly recognized prevention work, which has ensured that several thousand people have already been trained in our diocese. We must be even more vigilant in the future to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. As the new bishop of Hildesheim, I will do my utmost to make it happen.
CBA: The German bishops are currently debating the reception of communion for Protestant spouses in individual cases. What is your position on this?
Wilmer: Communion is an important theme of our faith. When it comes to important ies, I think it's good that we are allowed to wrestle and contend for positions. Right now, the pope has passed the ball back to the German bishops to come to an agreement. I am curious to see what will come out of it and will of course stick to the decision.
CBA: How do you assess the state of ecumenism in general??
Wilmer: Personally, I am a great supporter of ecumenism and I am convinced that we have already made good progress in this area and that we will continue to move forward.
CBA: Apart from your profession, what do you do in your free time??
Wilmer: In my free time I read, listen to music and ride my bike a lot. I also like to be out in nature because it relaxes and restores me. I like the cinema and the theater, but I also like to watch a soccer match from time to time.
CBA: Your soccer team?
Wilmer (laughs): FC 27 Schapen. But as the new bishop of Hildesheim, I am also pleased to have three big teams in my diocese: Hannover, Wolfsburg and Braunschweig.
CBA: How will you prepare for your new office over the next four months?
Wilmer: I will retire for eight days to an austere monastery for prayer, silence and solitude. In August I will be moving. Shortly after, I want to go on pilgrimage with young people from the diocese of Hildesheim to find out what ies move them. I want you to tell me how to be a bishop.