Bishops in Fulda © KNA
The refugee crisis is upsetting many things – even the traditional fall plenary meeting of the Catholic bishops in Fulda is proceeding differently than usual this year.
The church calendar is currently busier than it has been for a long time: a few days before the eagerly awaited World Synod of Bishops on marriage and the family in the Vatican, a week after the final meeting of the dialog process of the German Catholic Church in Wurzburg and a few weeks before the mandatory "ad limina visit" of all German bishops to the Vatican, the representatives of the 27 dioceses will meet from Monday to Thursday for their fall plenary session in Fulda.
Refugee ie at the heart of the plenary assembly
The 65 bishops and cardinals focused on the refugee problem – and, in view of the importance of the topic, disrupted the usual schedule of the autumn plenary assembly. Among other things, they want to hear from experts in refugee work, volunteers and the mayors of Darmstadt and Brandenburg/Havel, Jochen Partsch (Greens) and Dietlind Tiemann (CDU), and discuss strengthening long-term work for refugees.
In recent months, individual media and politicians have accused the church of being too hesitant to help – something the bishops' conference clearly rejects. Church representatives concede, however, that the decentralized structure makes it difficult to get an overview.
In August, the Secretariat of the Bishops' Conference in Bonn published a dossier listing what the 27 dioceses, Caritas, parishes, associations and religious orders are doing for refugees. According to the report, more than 73 million euros were allocated for refugees in 2014. More up-to-date figures for 2015 to be presented in Fulda.
"In addition to material support, pastoral care is also provided; in addition to legal and procedural counseling, measures to promote language and integration are also offered; in addition to vocational counseling and educational opportunities, there are also special assistance services for underage refugees; and in addition to the provision of accommodation, psychological and medical care is also provided," the dossier reads. International aid is also part of this: Aid organizations such as Misereor, Adveniat, Renovabis, missio or Caritas international are committed to improving living opportunities in the countries of origin in order to eliminate the causes of flight.
Other topics include the dialogue process and plans for the "Holy Year of Mercy"
Other focal points of the plenary assembly are the inner-church dialogue process, which ended after five years, and the planning for the "Holy Year of Mercy" proclaimed by the Pope. The dialogue process was initiated in Fulda exactly five years ago by the then Chairman of the Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, in order to regain trust that had been lost among the faithful and the public in the wake of the abuse scandal in 2010.
Five years later, the president of the bishops' conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, speaks of a success of the discussion process. Through the meetings of bishops, priests and lay Catholics "we got back on track," he summed up last week. In a situation of upheaval, the church has taken "a new step into an open society" and tried out new forms of trusting cooperation. The talks would have had a positive influence on the reform of church labor law, greater participation of women in church leadership positions and a new debate on marriage, family and sexuality.
Closing Ceremony "50 Years of the Second Vatican Council
At the end of the plenary session, the Bishops' Conference invites you to a festive academy "50 Years of the Second Vatican Council," which will take place on Thursday (24. September) will take place at the Maritim Hotel in Fulda. The council (1962-1965) ended on 8. December 50 years ago. Aim of Pope John XXIII. convened Church Assembly was the renewal (aggiornamento) of the proclamation of the faith. In response, the bishops' conference said it sees this "bringing the faith into today" more than ever as the central mission of the church. There will be a lecture by Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz and a panel discussion on this subject.