“Look, we've already come this far”

Thomas Sternberg © Markus Nowak (KNA)

It is not differentiated any more so much and Catholic participants are meanwhile natural on Protestant church days, means the ZdK president Thomas Sternberg in the interview with our site.

Interviewer: There are also some Catholics at the Protestant Kirchentag. How did you discover them?

Prof. Thomas Sternberg (President of the Central Committee of German Catholics/ZdK): On the one hand by meeting acquaintances. But there are also many Catholic women and men involved as speakers at the Bible studies. Then you also meet catholic participants in the streetcar. Everything has become much more self-evident. In a press organ I saw a photo, there were two catholic nuns pictured as Kirchentag visitors. Then I thought: "Look, we've already come so far that we don't differentiate so much anymore."
Interviewer: Can we say: The Katholikentag is becoming more Protestant and the Protestant Kirchentag is becoming more Catholic??
Sternberg: Yes. For example, we have taken over the tradition of Bible studies from the Protestant church congresses at the Catholic congresses. With great success. The Protestant Kirchentag has taken over the cultural program, which has always been part of the Catholic Church Days. These are examples of how to complement each other in programmatic work, not how to compete with each other.
Interviewer: You are, after all, representatives of the Catholic laity. In this function, do you have concrete demands for further steps towards each other??
Sternberg: On the one hand, the great differences between "Protestant" and "Catholic" still lie on the level of mentalities and emotions. I think that's where it's quite important for Protestant and Catholic Christians to talk to each other about their faith. Then you suddenly find that you can clear away a whole lot of obstacles that theology in the official language has long since cleared away anyway. For me, ecumenical was the service on 11. March in Hildesheim very important. (Note. d. Editorial: Ecumenical reconciliation service – "Healing of memories"). Nothing new was said there, but by the fact that it happened in a liturgical act, a commitment, behind which one can no longer go back, has arisen. I hope that this service, which is printed as a form, will be celebrated jointly by Protestants and Catholics in many more parishes.
Interviewer: What is your hope with regard to the 3. Ecumenical Church Congress 2021 in Frankfurt?
Sternberg: My great hope is that in Frankfurt we can show how we can stand together as Christians without our own internal differences being a hindrance. And that we can convincingly do a service for the people in society and in the international city of Frankfurt, to make it clear: We are the ones who, for example, can also conduct the important dialogue with Islam. We are the ones who are asked to do this, because we have something important to contribute.
Interviewer: What will you take away from the Kirchentag here in Berlin??
Sternberg: We will look at this form of large church services that we have experienced here with a view to the Katholikentag in Munster in 2018 and for Frankfurt in 2021. And the beautiful signs that there were here: For example, that the rector of the Central Committee of Catholics, Christoph Stender, was listed as an actor in the opening service. That is not a matter of course and an indication of how easy it is now to work together.

The interview was conducted by Jann-Jakob Loos.

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