The laity for the Church of tomorrow

A debate is ongoing in the Country's Christian community. The role of German Catholics' Central Committee

The German laity does not intend to step aside in front of social, political and ecclesial problems. In fact, it faces issues by means of a comprehensive path of dialogue and commitment, proposing to the Church in Germany to bravely take difficult – albeit determined – decisions. This could be an interpretative key of the autumn plenary session of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZDK), held in Bonn on November 21 and 22. Dialogue on current events. ZDK president Alois Glück, half-way through his second mandate, coordinated an assembly with many items on the agenda, also in the light of forthcoming events of primary importance for the German faithful. In particular, ahead of the closing of the “Process of dialogue and reflection on the future of the German Catholic Church”, next fall 2015, ZDK has decided to set up a study group that tasked with identifying the best ways to ensure continuity to the dialogue that has characterised the relationship between the laity and the ecclesiastic hierarchy since September 2010, when it was announced by the then President of the German Bishops’ Conference, Emeritus Archbishop Robert Zollitsch. The initiative was born four years ago to “drive” the German Catholic Church beyond the crisis that erupted virulently because of the scandals related to sexual abuse, but in recent years it has embraced many other issues, from family ministry to the question of the end of life and euthanasia, to the reception of refugees. All these themes were addressed during the meeting of the Catholics Central Committee. There will not be a new Synod. President Alois Glück, whilst highlighting the importance of this meeting – that could be compared to a Synod process, whereby bishops and lay associations held consultations to restore credibility and confidence to the Church – sadly referred to the assembly the impossibility of holding a new Synod of the Church in Germany, 40 years since the closing of the Synod of Würzburg, called by the then Federal Germany to discuss and implement the directives of the Second Vatican Council: “We, as representatives of the Catholic laity, must now define and develop proposals that can be implemented within the framework of Canon Law and reflect on the wide range of opinions” said the ZDK President in the closing remarks of the meeting. The ideas put on the table will certainly contribute to a common reflection: the German Church is faced with major social and ethical issues, and during the debate it clearly emerged that this path can be achieved only through a widespread ecclesial presence. Ecumenical prayer. The laity and the bishops are conscious that they are faced with issues that involve the communities of believers, the collective imagination and everyday life (family, work, education, rights, inclusion…), as emerged from the ZDK meeting. This is why the ecumenical process, also in view of the anniversary of Martin Luther planned for 2017, should start from that moment of sharing of November 21, with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the “Unitatis redintegratio”. During the ecumenical prayer of the Vespers the rector of ZdK, Stefan Bernhard Eirich, recalled that “the Decree on Ecumenism adopted 50 years ago has placed ecumenical dialogue on a entirely new level, and this is the light that we want to share.” A candle was then lit together by ZDK delegates, by representatives of the Congress of the German Evangelical Church (Dekt) and of the Conference of Evangelical Church associations and agencies (Kkwv). The light was carried in procession through the streets of the centre of Bonn, before the reciting of a Common Prayer in the Church of St. Albert the Great. In defense of life. A thrust to ecumenical relations on major ethical and social themes – notwithstanding existing differences between the German Catholic and Evangelical Churches – could come from the appeal launched by the ZDK Assembly to undertake a joint effort in the debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide, with reference to the debate on these themes ongoing at the German Parliament, the Bundestag. ZDK thus highlighted the importance to act in agreement with the Evangelical Church to urge the Bundestag to legislate in favour of palliative treatments and hospices. For Alois Glück, self-determination should not be understood in the sense that everyone lives and dies alone. “The right to self-determination, without the dimension of social responsibility for everyone, is a venom for society”, he said, since “no man is himself without a social bond. And suicide also has an impact on other people”.

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