“We don't need a wellness religion”

The message is clear: the participants of the eleventh congress "Joy of Faith" in Karlsruhe did not want to hide, but a few days before Benedict XVI's visit to Germany. Confessing the flag. A review.

An unusual demonstration forms in front of the Karlsruhe Congress Center. "I love Benedict XVI." posters are held aloft, boy scouts sing pious songs, ex-CDU state president Werner Munch protests loudly against a "de-Christianization of German politics".

"We are looking forward to the pope. He wants to encourage us in the faith. Hopefully his message will fall on fertile ground," said Hubert Gindert, chairman of the "Forum of German Catholics," which sponsored the congress with about 1.000 participants organized at the weekend in Karlsruhe.

Colorful Mischu
Catholics from all over Germany have come, members of the devout "Youth 2000," spiritual movements and other groups of the conservative Catholic wing, many rather older Christians, but also numerous families. Anti-abortion activists distribute small plastic figurines resembling embryos to protest more than 100.000 abortions to protest. Rosaries and holy water bowls are for sale. Two confession rooms and an adoration room have been set up and are used by many.

In lectures and panel discussions, Catholics call for better protection of marriage and the family. A resolution passed by the plenum calls on German President Christian Wulff to still stop the limited release of genetic tests on embryos passed in the Bundestag in July by refusing to sign the law. "If we take human dignity seriously, we are not entitled to make any distinction between not-yet-human, human and not-more-human," the resolution states. Wulff would therefore have to prevent the release of pre-implantation diagnostics (PID).

"State sexualization of children"
Another paper deplores a "state sexualization of children" in schools and kindergartens. A "manipulative and shame-destroying sex education of children by the state" must stop, the appeal said. And the Catholic Forum calls for parents to have the right to opt their children out of sex education classes if necessary.

At the same time, internal church questions take up a lot of space. The ubiquitous buzzword here is the "new evangelization" also called for by the Pope. The "evaporation of faith in Germany and the whole of Europe" is diagnosed, for example, by Congress patron Johanna Grafin von Westphalen. Speakers like Salzburg Auxiliary Bishop Andreas Laun call for working more intensively to pass on the faith.

"Lifting the rich treasures of the Catholic faith anew"
The charismatic Cistercian monk Father Karl Wallner put it this way: "We don't need postmodern religiosity with esoteric elements and wellness religion. Rather, we need to rekindle the rich treasures of the Catholic faith!"He himself reports from his monastery Heiligenkreuz in Austria, where hundreds of young people regularly come to prayer nights. Also in Karlsruhe young Catholics organized with "Nightfever" a long prayer night.

Vincentian Sister Anneliese Mader struck a quieter note in her lecture on Catholic hospice work. When she talks about her empathetic and sacrificial care for the terminally ill and dying, it becomes clear what powers deep trust in God can unleash.

At the beginning of the conference, the chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, appealed to all Catholics to get involved in society and help the socially disadvantaged. It is not a "question of calculation" for the church, but an obligatory task "to serve the people in the following of Christ", says the Archbishop of Freiburg.

Many of the congress participants now want to travel to the stations of the Pope's visit in Berlin, Erfurt or Freiburg in two weeks' time. In September 2012, the next church congress "Joy of Faith" will then take place in Aschaffenburg.

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