Monday, September 26, 2011

Ite missa est

Poster at the entrance to Freiburg's Münster Church
The last of the Pope's stops during his official and pastoral visit to Germany was Freiburg and already now, the opinion about this event is divided, divided as Germany is in its faith. Yet in the country of Reformation the main dividing line nowadays runs no longer between Catholics and Lutherans - although still painfully separated - but between Christians and Atheists. Forty years of communist regime in the East and sixty years of capitalism in the West caused that those who still believe in Jesus Christ are a minority in Germany ranging from thirty to three percent according to the region.

This is why the Pontiff underlined in his sometimes highly intellectual homilies that all Christians must stand together for they all share the common belief in Jesus Christ. In this spirit he recognized Luther as a man who struggled during his whole life seeking his personal God. In all logic the Pope continued: The real crisis of the Church in the Western world is a crisis of belief and not a structural crisis. However, when the structure collapses due to the lack of priests who will put out the lambs running astray to pasture? Neither did the Pope give a practical hint how to solve the lack of priests nor did he allow inter-communion between Catholics and Protestants which is particularly distressing in a country of so many mixed marriages. This discordia about the Eucharist is as old as 1529 when during the Marburg religious conversations theologians already discovered that with respect to the mystery bread and wine > body and blood of Christ neither the word est nor significat can be read in the New Testament.

The pope greeting the Freiburgers in front of the Münster Church. In the back Lord Mayor Dieter Salomon (Green), the Ministerpräsident of Baden-Württemberg Winfried Kretschmann (Green), the Pope's secretary Peter Gänswein (called the Vatican's George Clooney) and Archbishop Robert Zollitsch. Following Zollitsch's address of welcome the Pope, being behind schedule, took over right away thus depriving Kretschmann and Salomon of their speeches.
This morning we read in the newspaper: The two were not amused (©
Der Sonntag, Freiburg).
Benedetto, as enthusiastic youngsters shriek when they see him, impresses the people with his high intellect paired with his somewhat unmatched friendly shyness. For him it is most important that we live our faith with courage and humility when he said: Atheists seeking answers with burning hearts are often nearer to God than Church officials with hearts not touched by faith. Referring to King Salomon (1 Kings 3.7-3.12)* the Pope advised non-believers and Christians alike to listen to their hearts more often when making decisions in our modern times. In his last homily, he called for a complete separation of State and Church for only then the Church will be free to proclaim and live its faith. This remark reflects the particular situation in Germany where we pay a Church tax and where Church officials - Catholics and Protestants alike, ex officio, and balanced out - sit in governmental and administrative committees lobbying.

Benedetto’s message is clear but not appreciated by many: The Church needs no modernizing reforms but must go back to the roots as a community among people in faith and love.

*1 Kings 3: 7 “Now, LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” 10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.

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