Christmas 2019 © Peter Steffen
On Christmas Day, German bishops spoke out in favor of solidarity. In addition, the theme of abuse was the subject of many sermons. An overview.
Top representatives of the Catholic and Protestant churches have called on Christians in Germany at Christmas to be confident and socially engaged. The president of the German Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, said that the birth of Jesus manifested "the great yes of God to my life and to the life of all people.
The chairman of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, stressed that in the Child of Bethlehem, God became man and "declared love once and for all in a world where there are so many declarations of war". Both Marx and Bedford-Strohm had celebrated Christmas with homeless people on Christmas Eve.
"God leans out of the window"
The Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki promoted the acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world. "Jesus must not suffer as he did when there was no room for him in the inn when he was born, so that he had to come into the world outside in the stable."
According to the Hamburg Archbishop Stefan Hebe Christmas encourages Christians to take a stand and reach out to others. "God leans out of the window" and wants Christians to do the same.
Nativity teaches international understanding
As a sign of hope "in the midst of all darkness," Berlin's Archbishop Heiner Koch the birth of Christ. Populists, on the other hand, only spread fear in the social discussion.
Koch's Bamberg brother Ludwig Schick Called for a rejection of such currents. Already at the manger in Bethlehem all peoples of the earth as well as poor and rich would have met. Today we need a world "that acknowledges its global responsibility".
The Archbishop of Freiburg Stephan Burger said the message of Christmas can encourage Christians to speak out, for example, against exclusion, attacks on human dignity or fake news on the Internet.
Abuse was a topic in many sermons
Several bishops addressed the debate over sexual abuse in the church in their Christmas sermons. Paderborn Archbishop Hans-Josef Becker spoke of loss of trust. In the opinion of the Essen Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck called for changes in the church.
The bishop of Dresden-Meissen, Heinrich Timmerevers, said the extent of sexual violence against children and young people "goes to the substance of faith and church". The Erfurt Bishop Ulrich Neymeyr expressed the hope "that God will not abandon his church even in this time in which we have to learn so many terrible things about the abuse of children and young people in the space of the church".
The church must now learn to admit its fallibility, the Wurzburg resident demanded Bishop Franz Jung. "For me, this does not mean that one simply has to throw everything overboard that has been valid up to now."But the self-evident amption of being good must give way to healthy skepticism.
Does the church need more humility?
The Osnabrucker Bishop Franz-Josef Bode Bishop Franz-Josef Bode stressed that especially in times of "shock over the misconduct, misdemeanors, and even crimes of ecclesiastical persons" it is forbidden for the church "to want to take possession of the reality of people in power and glory, in big words and clerical posturing.".
Without directly mentioning the abuse scandal, the Mainz resident said Bishop Peter KohlgrafToday we are faced with the frightening fact that there is a dark side of this church." He perceives this as a bishop as clearly "as never before in my life as a Christian and priest".
Silent night, digital night?
Bishop of Speyer criticized the digital transformation, Karl-Heinz Wiesemann. Christmas is actually the feast of the silent night, but the world fears silence: "Everything is constantly commented on, everything is evaluated – by everyone."
Aachen's Bishop Helmut Dieser denounced the modern consumer society. The "always-more and always-faster" becomes an "always-false". Munster's Bishop Felix Genn appealed for more modesty. Jesus was born in poverty. He said this "stable smell" has permeated his entire life and can also serve today as an impulse for an environmentally friendly lifestyle.
Genn's brother minister in Magdeburg, Gerhard Feige, warned against society drifting apart into rich and poor. The refugee debate has also made it even clearer how fragile and insecure democracy appears to be. Bishop Gregor Maria Hanke of Eichstatt appealed for more solidarity.
The Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, Gebhard Furst, expressed concern about wars and humanitarian catastrophes. He called on all religions and religious people to enter into a salutary competition "to see who works most intensively for peace and is most effective in bringing about reconciliation.
Do not let yourself be "lulled to sleep
The Passau Bishop Stefan Oster pointed to the comforting character of Christmas in times of upheaval in the church, politics and society. "God came in Jesus to reconcile us with Himself, to give us peace – and thus, through us, to transform the world."
According to Trier's Bishop Stephan Ackermann the message of the birth of Jesus does not want to "lull us to sleep and put us to sleep", but is on the contrary a "yearning song of protest against the existing conditions, against the destructive forces which day after day drag the beauty of creation and the dignity of mankind into the mud".
Christmas and the meaning of life
The Limburg Bishop Georg Batzing called on Christians to courageously stand by their convictions despite opposition. The Bishop of Gorlitz, Wolfgang Ipolt, emphasized the importance of Christmas also for people who do not explicitly profess Christianity. Customs can point to the mystery of God, "which ultimately embraces every human being.
The Augsburg Bishop Konrad Zdarsa Said Christmas gives answer to question about meaning of life. Regensburg Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer called the message of Christmas revolutionary. God put an end to all speculation about himself and become man.
"Open Christmas" in Hildesheim
According to the diocesan administrator in the diocese of Fulda, the fact that God became man "in a shabby stable in Bethlehem" indicates, Karlheinz Diez, that he wanted to be "with the little ones, the sinful, the outcasts and the weak".
The Hildesheimer Bishop Heiner Wilmer visited the "Open Christmas" of the parish Guter Hirt in Drispenstedt on Christmas Eve, where about 1.000 needy people participated. He wants to be there for those "who are not doing so well," the "Hildesheimer Allgemeine Zeitung" quoted the bishop as saying.