Places of hope

Kirchentag: meeting of the Christian Churches in Germany

“So that you may have hope” was the motto of the “2° Ökumenischer Kirchentag” (second ecumenical congress of the Churches in Germany), for which some 150,000 Christians of various denominations gathered in Munich from 12 to 16 May. The motto was chosen some time ago and no one could then have foreseen how relevant it was to the present time. For the Kirchentag was held in a situation of multiple crises: the financial and economic crisis; the crisis of the Euro and hence of European integration; and the crisis of the Catholic Church in terms of sexual abuse.As an effect of this latter crisis, the Catholic Church presented itself at the congress with its wound still open and with humility. The Pope too in his message to the Kirchentag urged the Catholic Church to be a “place of hope”. Ecumenism in Germany is no longer a bilateral question, but a multilateral experience, thanks to the strong involvement of Orthodox and other Churches. So the Kirchentag with its 3000 events was held under the auspices of no less than 17 Churches joined together in the ACK (Work Group of the Christian Churches) in Germany. The organization itself was largely in the hands of Evangelical and Catholic laity, though with a considerable and important collaboration of the Orthodox Churches – visible especially in the celebration of vespers and of the “artoklasia”, the liturgy of the blessed bread with some 20,000 participants, held in the open on Friday evening.Ecumenism has become “normal”, in the positive sense of the word. There is no longer the idea of the other as a “stranger”, someone one must first get to know, as had perhaps been the case in the first ecumenical Kirchentag held in Berlin in 2003. In many fields cooperation and collaboration have become a tangible reality, in others they are gradually becoming one. In this “normality” it is up to the ecclesial movements to offer a solid spiritual basis.The Kirchentag did however help Christians to gain an awareness of their role and their importance in society and for society, not only in their home country but also in Europe and throughout the world. This was pointed out by Germany’s highest representatives (President Köhler and Chancellor Merkel). The Kirchentag has given hope in a triple direction: within the Churches, by encouraging Christians to bear witness to their faith in the contemporary world; in the ecumenical field, by showing a strong and profound will for communion; and in society, by offering points of guidance or “places of hope” as Benedict XVI has called them.

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