“The frustration is great”

A vigil of the initiative "Maria 2.0" in front of the cathedral of Munster © Andre Zelck (KNA)

The initiative of five women from Munster has developed into a nationwide wave of protest: The movement "Maria 2.0" demonstrates in hundreds of places against a male-dominated church.

The five Munster women from the Holy Cross parish did not expect such a response themselves. Her call for a church strike against male dominance among Catholics has spread like wildfire and unleashed a nationwide wave of protest. Women in hundreds of places took part in the initiative "Maria 2.0" and insist on a renewal of the church, especially after the abuse scandal. Quite loud is the call for the ordination of women to the priesthood.

Also men and many older ones involved

"The frustration and the longing for a new beginning in the church is great," says co-initiator Lisa Kotter with regard to the response. Many older people and a third of them men also participated in the "grassroots campaign". The small group, which was surprised by the overwhelming response, cannot give exact figures; it is estimated that several hundred initiatives took part. There is also an international response, as the extensive list of press articles on the website "Maria 2.0" shows.

Until next Saturday, the women will not enter any place of worship or perform any volunteer service. On Sunday, services were held in many places on their own initiative in front of the church doors – a statement for changed power structures and against the obligation of celibacy for priests.

"Untimely discrimination"

For example, in front of the cathedral in Munster, where well over 500 women gathered for a vigil. During a service of the word without communion, initiator Kotter denounced the "untimely and unjust discrimination of half of God's baptized children" in the church. At the end, participants marched to the nearby bishop's house and chanted, asking for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

In Freiburg, about 400 activists dressed in red demonstrated in front of the cathedral, while Archbishop Stephan Burger ordained six men as priests in the church. "I too can be a priest!"Jesus has always met the women on eye level" another: "The time of a man-dominated church must end", says demo co-organizer Eveline Viernickel.

Divided echo among the bishops

Burger makes it clear in his sermon and in handouts distributed to service participants that while he can understand the disappointment and frustration of women, his hands are tied by church law. Rome has repeatedly made clear that there can be no women priests, archbishop says. And Pope Francis had also recently stressed that he did not want to decide "in the foreseeable future" on a possible permission to ordain deaconesses. "I cannot resolve this tension, I have to endure it," says the bishop. Speaking directly to protesters, the archbishop stresses he is glad for the commitment of women Catholics. "I will do everything I can to further promote women locally. I understood their message."

"Our patience is at an end," meanwhile, Claudia Lucking-Michel, deputy president of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), told ZDF television. Her children and friends kept asking her how she could belong to an organization that excluded women.

With the church leadership bumps "Maria 2.0" to a divided response. "The German bishops understand the unrest," said the press spokesman for the German Bishops' Conference, Matthias Kopp. But reforms can only come about "piece by piece". Strike is not the right means.

Also topics of the Synodal Way

Munster's Bishop Felix Genn did not want to evaluate the action week on request. But he pointed to the German bishops' decision to talk about celibacy, the church's sexual morality and the "necessary reduction of power" among clerics in a broad debate. This so-called Synodal Way takes up the ies of "Mary 2.0" on.

Conservative groups in particular, such as the Forum of German Catholics, are massively critical of the strike. Pope John Paul II. had definitively determined 25 years ago that the church had no authority to ordain women as priests. The forum called on women to leave the Catholic German Women's Association and found a new faith-based organization.

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