“There the state must pay attention”

According to the Jesuit and theologian Ansgar Wucherpfennig, the state curtailed religious freedom in Germany too abruptly during the Corona crisis. He criticized the way liberties were "wiped away".

"What is decisive is that religious communities must have the freedom to practice their faith – as long as they operate within the parquet of the Basic Law," Wucherpfennig told the Catholic News Agency (KNA) on Friday. "The state must be careful not to pass laws 'just like that' that do not allow religious freedom and other civil rights to continue to apply."

Although he considers the protective measures taken to be sensible, said the rector of the Philosophical-Theological University of Sankt Georgen. "But the way that freedoms have been wiped away – you have to be careful that that's not done without justification," Wucherpfennig said, referring to the restrictions on church services and pastoral care.

Church dealt with restrictions responsibly

Asked whether churches had accepted the restrictions on religious freedom too readily, Wucherpfennig said, "I don't believe so. By and large, it has been handled responsibly in the churches."The Corona pandemic has "seized the entire world society like a sea storm," said the professor of New Testament exegesis.

Wucherpfennig also commented on the accusation that the churches had let many people die lonely and without pastoral care in the Corona pandemic. He could poorly judge the church in its entirety on this, he said. "However, I have always had the impression that where chaplains have actually made an effort to assist the elderly and sick, solutions have usually been found."Wucherpfennig added that he had found the bans on visits to nursing homes and homes for the elderly imposed by the German states "too harsh".

Criticism of churches in Corona crisis

Reproaches had made for example the former Thuringian Prime Minister Christine Lieberknecht (CDU) the churches. In May, she accused churches of "failure" for leaving "hundreds of thousands of people" alone, such as the sick, the lonely, the elderly and the dying. The Benedictine priest and best-selling author Anselm Grun had also criticized the church. "A big problem of the crisis has been that many people died alone and could not be accompanied."

Wucherpfennig has been rector of the Sankt Georgen University of Applied Sciences since 2014 and will hand over this office to the previous vice rector and ecclesiastical lawyer Thomas Meckel from October onwards. In 2018, Wucherpfennig's case made headlines across Germany. He had been re-elected for a third term as rector of the Jesuit university in February 2018; however, the Vatican had not initially given him its approval in the form of the declaration of no objection ("Nihil obstat"), which was met with massive criticism. Wucherpfennig had repeatedly been critical of the church's treatment of women and homosexuals.

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