“Together we are a Church”

The Bishops' Conference: plenary meeting on the migration-emergency and ecclesial renewal through the "Dialogue Process". The role of the laity

Refugees’ exodus, the role of the Catholic community in providing reception, a new season of evangelization coupled by the rediscovery of the values of the Church and of the community of German Catholics contained in the bishops’ letter for pastoral renewal were two themes addressed by the German bishops in the autumn plenary assembly of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK). The meeting was held in Fulda September 21-24. A press conference with cardinal Reinhard Marx, DBK president, and a celebration for the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, closed the event. Refugees, reception, Christian identity. Two days of debates with social workers, volunteers, heads and coordinators of diocesan services for migrants inaugurated the autumn plenary. The German bishops highlighted the need to solve the veritable emergency following temporary reception, namely, the access to permanent housing facilities. The formal commitment is to extend the efforts for refugees with the support of a bishop, the archbishop of Hamburg Stefan Hesse, tasked with “coordinating and managing questions involving border dioceses”. Whilst presenting the new appointment, Cardinal Reinhard Marx underlined that the German Church has already donated 98.6 million euro for the year 2015. German dioceses allocated over 66.5 million euro through special funds for refugees, while solidarity and charity agencies developed projects for refugees abroad amounting to 32.1 million euro. The cardinal conveyed the need for ever-greater involvement, since “when we are indifferent we loose our identity”. To this regard, Msgr. Norbert Trelle, bishop of Hildesheim, in charge of the pastoral care of migrants, shared his concerns for the tightening of regulations on the right to asylum. The theme was addressed also by Cardinal Rainer Woelki, archbishop of Cologne, who highlighted the inclusion of refugee-children in Catholic schools and kindergartens, along with the possibility for young people to continue their university studies interrupted with the flight from their home Countries. Cardinal Woelki also analysed the question of the different treatment of refugees for economic reasons from the Balkans, who cannot file an asylum request, “yet the legitimate concerns of these people in finding a job cannot be denied on the basis of prejudice”. A new pastoral season. The document “Together we are Church – Letter of the German bishops for pastoral renewal”, presented during the closing session of the Assembly, on September 23, was designed as a tool on accompaniment in the coming years for the German Church: on the basis of the five-year experience of the “Dialogue Process” recently concluded, and on the basis of the Council documents “Gaudium et spes” and “Lumen gentium”, “Together we are Church” will guide the faithful in their diocesan life, for a “way of the Church of the people towards a Church of the people of God”, states the foreword of the letter, which underlines the need for “a change in the vision and attitude of the Church as a whole”, through the common baptismal vocation of all”, of the faithful, addressing the problem of the lack of priests and the ever-more central role in the life of the communities of lay people formed and knowledgeable on pastoral issues. The president of the pastoral Commission, the bishop of Osnabrück, Msgr. Franz-Josef Bode, said that “priesthood common to everyone and priestly ministry are two aspects of the priesthood of Jesus Christ that are mutually related”, while the bishop of Münster, Mons. Felix Genn, pointed out that “the changes of the Church in Germany, with the phrase ‘Together we are Church’ are far from being concluded, as ours is simply meant as the mid-term report of a long process”. In fact, for Glenn, “charismas constitute the concrete way in which individual participation is incarnated”, and lay Catholics no longer want to be recruited for specific goals. They want to be involved with their personal capabilities and on the basis of their individual possibilities. The document equally highlights the theme of the co-responsibility of women in pastoral and ecclesial management.

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