“Many are looking for support”

On Wednesday at noon, Chancellor Angela Merkel was a guest of the Cardinal Hoffner Circle of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Kaisersaal of the Parliamentary Society. In October 2003, she visited the association, founded in 1993 by Catholic members of parliament, for the first time; now she is once again answering questions in front of an audience of almost 80 from the parliamentary group and the surrounding area. Christoph Strack was there.

One rarely experiences Angela Merkel so personally. The Chancellor speaks of joyfulness in faith, of singing and praying together, of the incentive to "make politics with so much joy" out of Christian faith. Rather amused than irritated, the East German pastor's daughter says that "various books are now being written about her, as I am a Christian" – an allusion to the recent publications, sometimes critical, sometimes benevolent, about Merkel and the "C" in the CDU. The 54-year-old describes everyday school life in the GDR, the decision "Christian teaching yes or no" in front of classmates. "For me, faith is something very personal, very individual." "Dear Angela," says chairman Georg Brunnhuber (61), "Schorsch" she replies. Here, no one explicitly asks anymore about the Pope's criticism, which the head of government had voiced in February to the annoyance of some Catholics in connection with the traditionalist controversy. One or the other member of the circle has already given her his opinion on this on occasion. The questions now revolve around factual ies, bioethics and abortion, family images and social justice. Her expectation of the Bundestag election falls in theNebensatz: "We want to be yes people's party, want 40-and-more percent."Merkel is not concerned with the details in the circle of Union Catholics. The CDU chairwoman repeatedly reminds the deputies to face the social reality in Germany. She promotes the CDU's new family concept, which focuses on early childcare and thus makes it possible for both parents to work. At the same time, however, she says how irreplaceable parental time and attention is for the children. It criticizes the party-internal handling of single parents, "who is different, must justify itself with us first times…"She reports on her conversation with the lesbians and gays in the CDU, "tough as nails": "Incredibly nice people", to whom she was then able to explain that they were not allowed to marry the same sex. And Merkel describes disputes with Berlin's Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky on the subject of asylum. "That would put me relatively far to the left in the CDU, if not intolerable at all…."When the church moves on such ies, it is a reminder to the CDU to "move a little". Some statements from party circles, she says, definitely hurt her… This is how Merkel appeals to the worldview of her conservative caucus colleagues – and then takes them to task again. The chancellor refers to the result of the Berlin referendum on religious education: "sobering. Even I did not expect that.For this reason, Christians in the Union would also have to "do a lot more preliminary work" and "be missionary in a certain way". There are many who are looking for support."If so many in eastern Germany are still reporting for youth initiation ceremonies, it also shows "that we are not managing to pick them up"". The Protestant CDU leader, who was also once the federal chairwoman of the Protestant Working Group of the CDU/CSU, describes her Protestant credo to the Catholic deputies: not to give up ideals – for example, in marriage and family – and yet to find a way to live responsibly with them. In all this, she speaks of Pope Benedict XVI. and John Paul II. with a lot of respect, when looking at the Pole, it almost lets you feel emotion as well. She is very much in favor of coherent dogmatics. Because it is important "that fundamental claims are still formulated at all". And especially on the current topic of the social market economy, she would finally like to see contributions from the Catholic Church that shape a debate or advance it qualitatively.

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