“Wherever someone spreads fear – of hell or whatever else – the Gospel cannot have an effect”, German cardinal Reinhard Marx has said.
Driving the news
The Archbishop of Munich and Freising and President of the German Bishops’ Conference was speaking January 8 at a discussion forum in Augsburg on the topic: “Does Peace Need the Churches?”
At the event, Marx claimed that although religions essentially serve to promote peace, this “is not always the case”.
Sometimes that peace “essence” of religion “gets buried”, lamented the cardinal.
“Sometimes you have to say: Stop religion!”, added Marx, referring, above all, to the times when beliefs are used “against people or to maintain power”.
In this way, Marx launched a harsh criticism in his address against the wielding of power on the part of the Church, but also against the use of fear to fence people in.
The cardinal, one of Pope Francis’ closest advisors in his C-6 ‘cardinal cabinet’ and Coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy, said that in today’s context of “freedom” to choose, it is only “natural” that fewer people are members of the Church, since in earlier times people were believers “by tradition” and not by conviction.
“We do not want to change the society of freedom”, the cardinal insisted in this sense, emphasising too that “we cannot exclude anyone just because they don’t come to church on Sundays”.
Why it matters
Also speaking with Marx at the forum on peace was head of the Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD), Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm.
The Bavarian bishop said, for his part, that “the charisma of the Church does not depend on the number of members”, but rather on those members defending the Gospel with passion and living as Christians, leaving temptations to power aside.
Bedford-Strohm added that while in former times the Church was known for blessing weapons, today it has a reputation for its work for the care of the environment.
“I prefer the latter”, the Lutheran bishop said, adding that it is in the very DNA of the Church to promote reconciliation.
For the record
Cardinal Marx was also in the headlines again this week for a 50,000 euro donation to United4Rescue, an alliance backed by the EKD that is seeking to buy a ship to rescue refugees in the Mediterranean.
Far-right political party Alternative for Germany (AfD) immediately criticised Marx for the donation, with AfD MP Johannes Huber accusing the cardinal on Twitter: “Marx misappropriates €50,000 from church tax money. In doing so, he is supporting the business of traffickers”.
However, the Munich and Freising archdiocese explained that the money for Marx’s donation came from a special part of the Church’s budget given over to charitable causes the cardinal sees fit to give to with speed and minimal consultation.
Such funds are common in the German dioceses.
Moreover, Marx donated in 2018 and 2019 the same amount of 50,000 euros to other sea rescue missions with a minimum of controversy.