The loss of political heavyweights

The loss of political heavyweights

Voting at the ZdK plenary assembly this year only digital © KNA

Thierse, Kretschmann, Muller: The Central Committee of German Catholics loses prominent members. At the weekend, the ZdK will also consider the move to Berlin, also because of the greater proximity to politics.

It's a leaden time, and it's a challenging time: when the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) holds its spring plenary assembly on Friday and Saturday, the 230 delegates can expect little "business as usual".

Not only is the Assembly meeting completely online for the second time. Also the rotational new election of the 45 individual personalities takes place – at least in the first ballot – digitally and with several days lead time.

High expectations for Katholikentag 2022

Corona also has the 3. The ZdK has faced a huge challenge in organizing the Ecumenical Church Congress (oKT) throughout Germany – and with it the co-hosts from the ZdK. A laborious organization with constantly changing pandemic situations and unclear decision-making situations lies behind those responsible.

While politicians are currently considering new emergency brakes, it is clear that the oKT will only be a digital rump event from 13. to 16. May in Frankfurt takes place. At the plenary assembly, the delegates will be informed about the latest state of preparations.

It is hardly conceivable that under Corona conditions the oKT could send out a signal of new beginnings, as many had hoped. Delegates' expectations for the next German Catholic Congress in Stuttgart at the end of May 2022 are likely to be all the greater.

It is conceivable that tens of thousands of Catholics will once again be able to meet in person – at the invitation of the ZdK and the diocese – in a city that has long been very strongly Protestant and in which Catholicism is strongly represented by migrants.

Many applicants

In terms of personnel, the ZdK is facing an upheaval in several respects: In the new election of the 45 individual personalities, several prominent personalities are not running again. Political heavyweights such as SPD politician Wolfgang Thierse, Development Minister Gerd Muller (CSU), Baden-Wurttemberg's Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann (Greens) and the President of the German Unesco Commission, Maria Bohmer (CDU), leave the body. Conceivable that the influence of the Catholic Committee in politics will wane.

At the same time, ZdK Secretary General Marc Frings can be pleased that with 105 men and women, more candidates than ever before have applied for the 45 places. Frings was impressed by the great willingness to volunteer for a strong lay Catholicism "especially in view of the current crisis in the Church. Observers expect the Assembly to become younger and more female.

Move from the Rhine to the Spree

The ZdK secretariat is also facing upheaval. Frings wants to report to the plenary assembly on the move, which will take place on 1 May. The ZdK will inform its members about the upcoming move from Bonn to Berlin on January 1 and about the new work concept in the capital. Some employees of the secretariat do not go with from the Rhine to the Spree.

The reason given for the move was greater proximity to political decision-makers. The political, media and social "presence" of the ZdK will be improved. Observers point out, however, that the Central Committee will then have to change its position – in terms of personnel and content.

Once again, the plenary assembly will deal with the permanent construction sites of the past years: Prague priest Tomas Halik is expected to speak on "The Challenge of Being a Christian in a Secular Society". Workshops are also planned on topics related to the Synodal Way reform process, which addresses sexual morality, the priestly way of life, power and the separation of powers, and the role of women in the church.

Sexualized violence

A separate program item is the topic of sexualized violence in the church. Assembly wants to engage in conversation with affected people. In addition, a new ZdK working group will present itself, which is to deal with abuse by laymen in the church.

ZdK president Thomas Sternberg had explained to it "that the crimes of sexualized violence are not only a question of clerics". The 'co-clericalism' in the congregations or abuse in associations must also be taken into account. But also the prevention concepts that have already been worked out in many cases.

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