For a more just society

German evangelicals and Catholics release new document on social action" "

The Catholic and Protestant Churches in Germany have presented their new ecumenical social inititiative titled “Common responsibility for a just society”, which follows the wake of Sozialwort (document for social initiatives) of 1997 titled “For a future of solidarity and justice” that gave a fundamental contribution to social action, human promotion as well as to the fraternal relations of German Catholics and evangelicals. Tackling the crisis. During a meeting held on February 28 at the “Haus am Dom” in Frankfurt am Main, the president of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK), archbishop Robert Zollitsch, and the president of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), theologian Rev Nikolaus Schneider, presented the main themes of the document. The general crisis of the past years, not only economic in nature but also involving ethical values and social justice, prompted the ecumenical project of the two Churches. The paper, a continuation of the document released in 1997, will introduce a new debate on 21st century economic and social transformations. In his address Msgr. Robert Zollitsch said: “The impact of the crisis in Germany has been less strong” compared to other countries, although it cannot be considered a safe haven, and thus the Federal Government cannot afford making evaluation mistakes. For the archbishop, the purpose of the document is “to prompt the development of policies aimed at long term social and demographic security, which reflects the main concern of our ecumenical initiative for social action, namely, to develop a long term vision”. Debate among Christians. The document stresses that the responsibility for a just society cannot be confined to the present times. A major intergenerational problem, expected to have a major impact in the years to come, is the gradual entry into retirement of the baby boomers. For Zollitsch this means there will be “millions less taxpayers, coupled by a dramatic increase in the number of people who will receive a pension”, with ensuing economic and social problems. The new Sozialwort equally highlights the main themes addressed by the Christian Churches over the past years, namely: the intention to provide a major thrust to sustainable social economy in Germany, leading to social integration and common participation of individuals (chapter. 2); attention to environmental questions and poverty-related problems also in terms of international economic unbalances, for sustainable lifestyle and work (ch.5). The focus is also on the contribution to social inclusion and full-scale participation providing support to poverty-stricken social brackets, aimed at equal opportunities for all, with social assistance services marked by subsidiarity and solidarity, to ensure that women no longer experience difficulties accessing positions of professional responsibility, with mothers and fathers who see no perspectives for reconciling family and work, with immigrants who remain on the margins of the social fabric (ch. 7). Emphasis is placed on the rediscovery and the enhancement of the Europeanist approach of the German social proposal, also with reference to those Countries experiencing difficulties, given that “Europe was and still is a community of peace and common values and beliefs, and the unification of Europe draws inspiration from the desire to direct its common destiny and common form. In this case, Germany has a special responsibility to develop the idea of Europe as a community of peace”. (ch. 10). The communities’ requests. In his address, EKD president Nikolaus Schneider underlined the requests of the community: “Many people demand a new thrust for social cohesion, for the common values in our society, for freedom, solidarity, justice and the safeguard of the creation. This debate should not be carried out only by the political realm but also by the Church and among Churches. The Word of God calls us to defend individual dignity and coexistence in justice and peace. Churches are committed not only for the Salvation of mankind in the afterlife, but also for their wordly prosperity. In our social responsibility we can take action drawing from the wealth of experience of Diakonia and Caritas”. The document with proposals for discussion and reflections is available on the website www.sozialinitiative-kirchen.de, also in the light of an ecumenical Congress scheduled to take place in Berlin next June 18, open to all ecclesial, social and political representatives in Germany.

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