It's been nine months since Archbishop Zollitsch recommended a "dialogue process" to the church in Germany. The church should once again approach the people more strongly. At the federal level, the first major meeting is now scheduled to take place in Mannheim, Germany. In Zollitsch's home diocese, the diocesan dialogue process is already in full swing.
In September, the president of the German Catholic Bishops' Conference and Archbishop of Freiburg, Robert Zollitsch, surprised his fellow bishops and many Catholics with a fiery appeal: in an increasingly secular world and after the loss of trust caused by the abuse crisis, the Church must face the opportunities and challenges of faith anew.
Toward a "pilgrim, listening and serving church"
Zollitsch spoke out in favor of a "dialogue process" so that the church would once again approach people more strongly and become a "pilgrim, listening and serving church". "There is no other way for us than that of openness, honesty and listening," Zollitsch said at the time.
Nine months later, the dialogue process is taking shape. This is the case at the national level, where the Catholic bishops have invited representatives of the church base, the associations and the dioceses to a congress in Mannheim for the weekend. But also in several dioceses, where the basis for a new Catholic culture of discussion and dialogue is to be created starting from the parishes. So far, the diocesan dialogue process has come furthest in Zollitsch's home diocese.
"There are no taboos, all topics can be put on the table"
Here, after intensive planning and consultations of the diocese management, graphically elaborately designed "dialogue boxes" were sent to all parishes of the diocese in the southwest, which has about two million Catholics. This includes the planned roadmap for the dialogue, suggestions for topics, and concrete tips and materials for organizing discussions.
Cathedral chaplain Andreas Mohrle, one of those responsible, promises. "There are no taboos, all topics can be put on the table. But it is important that we understand the dialogue above all as a spiritual process, as listening to the voice of God."
The chairwoman of the Diocesan Council, the highest representative body of the church base, Martina Kastner, registers a great interest of many Catholics in accepting the opportunity for dialogue. "At the moment, initial planning is underway in many parishes." She hopes that the dialogue process will reach as many as possible. "However, this will only succeed if all concerns and needs can be put on the table and addressed openly."In addition, at the end of the dialogue there must be more than just a paper for the drawer.
Youth associations also participate si
Representatives of the Catholic youth associations, which 32.000 boys and girls will be represented. Debates on the youth contribution to the dialogue process have begun in group sessions and events. With Project Samuel, a dedicated website is online.
The planners in the diocese management are convinced that the dialogue will change the church. "We are working for the results to be felt in everyday life," Mohrle said. The debates are to be reflected, for example, in a revised set of so-called "pastoral guidelines".
Three "question horizons" are to be considered by the end of 2012 by parishes, associations, professors, young people or even those distant from the faith: How do modernity and faith go together? How can young people learn to believe? What will the church look like in the future??
Zollitsch approached Catholic schools, the Catholic Academy, Caritas and church educational institutions with "exploratory orders," concrete questions from the three major areas. In "focus groups", top representatives of business, theologians or journalists are to debate the future of the church. And finally, from the beginning of 2012, there will be diocesan-wide "Future Conferences.
At the end of 2012, all results are to be compiled
After the Katholikentag in May 2012 in Mannheim as a date for a first interim balance, all results are to be compiled at a large "Forum of the Councils" at the end of 2012.
"We want to try to bring the tremendous polyphony within the Catholic Church into an exchange with each other. And find a way for the future of the church that everyone can share," says Stefan Bonath, who developed the detailed concept for the dialogue process. He hopes that it will not come to factionalism or hardened fronts. The church leadership is aware that many Catholics are looking for future paths against the backdrop of a shortage of priests, parish mergers and distance from church positions such as sexual morality or the role of women.