Stefan Weinert © Diocese of Trier
Closing conference for the synod in Trier © Harald Tittel
Parish reforms, changes in perspective and a focus on families – the Trier diocesan synod had numerous topics on its agenda. In an interview, Trier theologian Stefan Weinert draws a positive conclusion and praises the synodal cooperation.
Interviewer: What's in the final document that has now come into effect?
Stefan Weinert (director of broadcasting ministry in the Diocese of Trier): A whole lot. The bishop wanted concrete recommendations for the future path of the church in the diocese of Trier. He also got that. But the synod also determined that it is not enough to turn a few screws here and there. That's why she took an even more fundamental approach. Synod says basic attitudes must change. It is very important to accept the participation of all and diversity as a gift from God, as well as gender justice and options for the poor. In addition, the perspectives would have to change – centrally, it has named four changes of perspective.
Interviewer: "Saying goodbye" and "paradigm shift" are two of the buzzwords involved – and also that the days of the people's church were over. Are these buzzwords meant as a change of perspective?
Weinert: The end of the people's church, of which the bishop himself speaks, is so to speak the result of the thorough analysis, on which the four concrete changes of perspective are then based. Namely: thinking from the individual – in other words, no longer thinking for the individual and pressing him or her into a Catholic pattern, but rather looking at how people actually live individually. Secondly, charismas should be considered before tasks – i.e., not looking at what needs to be done urgently and then perhaps looking for people to do it under prere, but rather looking at what people have received from God, which we can then use to develop the church.
Interviewer: With "charisms before tasks" you could also think, you look for people with a lot of charisma and tell them to work for you, or?
Weinert: No, just the other way round. We look at what people bring with them and what we can do with it locally. Then there may be tasks that are not being done. So, in the future, not everything will be done everywhere in the congregations. Communities will be much larger in the future. This is the third change of perspective. The parishes will be more like a network, not everything will be offered everywhere, but one looks where there is a possible focus for youth work in such a large parish, for example. You look at where there is a focus for spirituality. All this will be networked. Finally, the fourth change of perspective is to live the synodal principle diocesan-wide. This does not mean that the synod will now become a permanent state of affairs. But what was experienced there, working together on something, exchanging ideas and experiencing the spirit of God, is to become even more prevalent in the diocese of Trier.
Interviewer: Does the departure from small-scale parish structures then also play a role?
Weinert: Yes, in any case. Goodbyes will play a role in general. It has been clearly said that we have to say goodbye to old things, which were also good until now, but the popular church is just at its end. Part of this is that the parish structures are becoming wider. So far, there are 900 parishes in the diocese, but they are now already grouped into 170 pastoral units. The new guideline number is: about 60 new-type parishes. These will be larger, more expansive than before. There will be of course church places. But not everything is offered in every parish, which already does not work, if we are honest for once.
Interviewer: What exactly will the consequences be if you think it through even further??
Weinert: A lot of very concrete recommendations have been given. I'll just pick out two: for example, the future parishes will have leadership teams in the future – with the pastor at the helm. These are teams in which full-time but also voluntary workers are to be involved. Another example comes from the area of family: Of course, says the synod, Christian, sacramental marriage is the goal. For it one wants to win the people also, one wants to recruit for it and support the people. But we notice that in society the image of the family has become much broader. This includes patchwork families, single parents, but also, for example, same-sex couples who take parental care of children. We perceive all this. These forms, where they contain good, should be valued. And for all these forms of family, we want to develop offers for and together with these people.
Interviewer: Is this something that other dioceses can learn from?
Weinert: They'll have to decide that for themselves. It was the synod for the diocese of Trier. But Bishop Ackermann has perceived very clearly that he was asked what is discussed in the diocese at the synod and how the whole thing is done. At the end of the synod, he then said very confidently, one has experienced, "Synod goes". Prerequisite for this, he said, is that people trust each other – he as bishop has given trust to the synodals, the synodals have given trust to him. This has been said again and again by both sides. If you do it this way, then the synod is a possibility, says Bishop Ackermann.
The interview was conducted by Uta Vorbrodt.