“Peace is not a banal everyday topic”

To the 101. Tens of thousands of visitors are expected in Munster for the 12th German Catholic Day. Host Bishop Felix Genn on his expectations and the AfD appearance and church asylum controversies.

CBA: After 88 years, there is a Catholic Day in Munster again. A long time…

Genn: And it might have taken even longer if cathedral chapter and diocesan council had not fully agreed. Without this yes, I would not have dared to offer Munster as a venue to the Central Committee of German Catholics.

CBA: What are your expectations for the meeting?

Genn: With the topic of peace, we are sending exactly the right signal in current world politics. Think North Korea's strongman Kim Jong-un or Syria. So peace is not a banal everyday topic. Rather, we have to deal with it seriously and sustainably.

After all, we live in a country where there has been no war for over 70 years. It can be deadening. With the Katholikentag in Munster, the city of peace, we can contribute to increasing sensitivity for the ie of peace.

CBA: Can there still be a happy light-hearted meeting after the death drive at the beginning of April?

Genn: I think so. Unfortunately, there can be no absolute security. But we do not want to be discouraged. Above all, this rampage must not be associated with Islamist tendencies.

CBA: The Katholikentag itself begins somewhat unpeacefully: the appearance of an AfD politician is met with fierce protest. Is it right for him to be involved in the discussion??

Genn: I think that is right. Of course I support and understand demands for a very critical attitude towards the party. But as democrats we should give a single AfD representative the opportunity to discuss here. The discussion about the relationship between church and state takes place with the church policy spokespersons of all parliamentary groups in the Bundestag and thus within a narrow framework. If the AfD were not in the Bundestag, the question would look completely different.

CBA: The Islam debate started by the CSU will not stop at the Katholikentag either. Islam belongs to Germany?

Genn: This formulation is almost a confession of faith. Muslims belong to our country; many have a German passport. In the Ruhr area, I was moved by the words of a Turkish citizen: "We came here as guest workers – and all of a sudden it was noticed that we are also human beings and citizens. Our culture is undoubtedly shaped by our Christian-Jewish-Western heritage. But it is important to bring this heritage into conversation with another culture that is still somewhat foreign to us. That is the only possibility for a good social coexistence. There one should not focus on one sentence.

CBA: The Katholikentag is also a stage for politicians. Conversely, many church representatives like to interfere in social discourse. How political can the church be??

Genn: I do not want to set limits. For the church, the Gospel makes it necessary to raise its voice on political ies as well – and to do so in a fundamental way. I do not want to limit the political statements of the Katholikentag. I don't even know where.

CBA: Churches have become great advocates for refugees. So it's not surprising that there are more church asylum cases. What do you say to politicians who see this with suspicion??

Genn: That I can understand them. We live in a constitutional state. And there the appropriate rules are to be observed. We are there quite clearly on the line, which the Catholic bishops formulated a few years ago somewhat more concretely: that individual cases of hardship are reviewed again.

CBA: The Katholikentag also deals with the increased founding of XXL parishes. For your diocese of Munster, you have ruled out further parish mergers, but you are promoting a cultural change. What do you mean?

Genn: The term comes from corporate culture. We must enter into a good dialogue in order to shape the Church, especially in the small parishes. About forms of leadership and co-responsibility, within a set framework, the decision must be able to fall locally. We want to send a signal that we want to be a church of relationship even more than before.

CBA: What will the church look like in 20 years?

Genn: If I knew that… In any case, I would like all baptized Christians to know that they share responsibility. This is what the Council emphasized, and this is also what Pope Francis says: As a Christian, I am not simply a customer of an official event, but myself a sign for others. I wish for lively congregations that want to participate and not just be served. Unfortunately, the mentality of provision is still in so many people's heads.

CBA: The problem of the priest shortage is not solved with it…

Genn: I firmly believe that when there are vibrant congregations, vocations to the priesthood and religious orders will come again. There will certainly not be as many as in the past. But it will be priests who reach out to people and bring the faith into conversation with new forms. A chaplain recently invited people to an event he calls "Kyrie and Currywurst": he talks to young people about the faith, they pray together, and they eat currywurst. One must have ideas.

CBA: Do laymen then have ultimate responsibility for their local community?

Genn: By canon law, a priest always has ultimate responsibility for a parish; in contrast, lay people can have responsibility in a parish. And in parishes, of course, when it comes to individual services, fields of pastoral care and many other things. In fact, in some areas there will be a final responsibility of lay people.

CBA: Once again back to the Katholikentag: What are you particularly looking forward to??

Genn: Above all, on the many encounters with the people – especially with the young people at the youth catechesis.

Andrew Otto

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