The Catholic and Protestant churches each have offices in Dusseldorf that maintain contacts with politicians in the state capital. There has already been cooperation – now the distances will be even shorter.
"Welcome to our ecumenical WG," says Thomas Weckelmann. "Almost-WG," he adds. A few moving boxes are still piled up behind him. A shelf did not arrive in time. That's why he can't yet put all the books away in his new office in Dusseldorf's Hubertusstrasse.
The view goes directly to the state chancellery. The state parliament is around the corner. It smells of fresh paint. And the work continues. Church councilor Thomas Weckelmann represents the three Protestant churches in North Rhine-Westphalia to the state government, the state parliament and the authorities in Dusseldorf. One floor up sits his Catholic colleague, Father Antonius Hamers.
He represents the five dioceses in the state. The two are the first church representatives in the 16 state capitals to operate from a common house. The building belongs to Caritas. On the lower floors, it operates counseling centers.
Hamers moved his offices here two years ago. This year, Weckelmann sought more suitable premises for his staff. "He asked me if his offices could also be accommodated here," says Hamers. Caritas was in the process of moving its counseling service for the homeless from near Parliament toward the train station. "Then the way was clear," explains the priest. There is much to do for church representatives.
Both churches are big entrepreneurs of charity
Refugee policy, for example, is an ongoing concern for both of them. No one provides as many volunteers in integration work as the two churches. And the full-time employees of the parishes, Caritas and Diakonie are at the forefront of caring for the refugees.
Both churches are big charity entrepreneurs. Together, Hamers and Weckelmann fight with their churches and dioceses for the protection of Sundays and holidays. Last but not least, the clergy see themselves as pastors for the parliamentarians – with church services and with an open ear for every conversation politicians ask for.
Working in the same building shortens the distances to each other. "We have already worked closely together," says Hamers. "Now cooperation has become even easier." And the joint address is a strong signal to politicians, Weckelmann adds.
Both churches agree on most ies
The two churches agree on most ies. And perform together, right down to the ecumenical devotions for the parliamentarians. "Even if we take different positions on individual ies, we act in concert," says Weckelmann. Among the differences, for example, is that the Protestant Church affirms marriage for same-sex partners. The Catholic has reservations about this.
There are also differences in approach. "On refugee ies, the Protestant side is sometimes more vehement," Hamers notes.
"We, the Catholic office, are exercising greater restraint."Refugees are very close to the heart of the Protestant church, says Weckelmann. And Rhenish President Manfred Rekowski is the chairman of the Chamber for Migration and Integration of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and thus the Protestant bishop for refugees.
Ecumenism works in Dusseldorf
Hamers also comes to talk about different tasks. In addition to political representation, the Catholic office also coordinates cooperation among the five dioceses. The vicars general meet at Hamers every two to three months. He prepares their meetings. They are also his contacts in the day-to-day work. The five bishops meet two or three times a year in Hubertusstrasse to coordinate their work.
Visitors from politics and administration now find it easier to talk to both representatives. "We were delighted that the three regional churches made the move possible," says Hamers.
"It is not a matter of course that the Protestant church moves into a house of Caritas."At any rate, ecumenism works in the representation in the state capital.