The German Bishops’ head has linked the survival of the faith and the Church to a greater role for women in Catholicism.
– Church was “founded” and has been “sustained” and “enlivened” by women: Bishop Georg Bätzing
“Founded by women, sustained by women, witnessed to by women, won and enlivened by women – that is the Church. And only in this way will it have a future”, president of the German Bishops’ Conference Bishop Georg Bätzing warned in a sermon November 22.
Bätzing, the Bishop of Limburg, was presiding over the reconsecration of the Frauenfriedenskirche (“Our Lady’s Peace Church”) in Frankfurt.
The plan for the church dates back to 1916, when Hedwig Dransfeld, then-then chair of the Katholischer Deutscher Frauenbund (Catholic German Women’s Organisation), collected money to build a “prayer for peace in stone” to honour the dead of World War I.
The funds raised at that point were lost in the hyperinflation of the Weimar Republic, but the church was finally completed in 1929, only to be badly damaged during World War II.
Now the church has been reconsecrated after a five-million-euro, three-year restoration project, complete with the original and striking 12-metre-high modernist mosaic of Our Lady Queen of Peace in the portico, which Bätzing described as “very unusual”.
– Use “anger” over women’s marginalisation as “driver” for change
Given the history of the Frauenfriedenskirche, Bätzing dedicated his homily Sunday to paying tribute to the role of women in the Church.
Right from the outset, he praised “women’s questions, women’s complaints, women’s courage, women’s anger, women’s gifts, women’s union, women’s views, women’s hope, women’s faith [and] women’s peace”.
The questions of women as to how they can take on greater leadership in the Church and the answers the hierarchy gives to those demands “are decisive for whether our cultural and social situation continues with belief in the God of love and his saving Son and his vital spirit, or whether this millennia-old confession will continue to falter”, Bätzing warned in his sermon.
But regardless of the answers for greater gender equality that come down from the hierarchy, Bätzing encouraged women to continue with their fight for justice, and to use their “anger” as a “driver” to push for reform.
“For quite a few women in the Church, the tipping point has now been reached. They band together. And I say: That’s good, because the alternative would not be to remain silent, but to leave, as far too many women have already done!”, the bishop acknowledged.
– “Men’s alliance” mentality still reigns
Bishop Bätzing has been a tireless advocate for women in the Church, speaking out on a number of occasions on the need for greater gender justice in Catholicism and being one of the few German prelates to have met with Catholic women’s rights groups such as ‘Maria 2.0’.
The Limburg bishop last week repeated that sentiment in an address to a general assembly of the lay Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), in which he admitted that he was “very unhappy about the overall situation we have in the German Church”, principally in regard to the ongoing clergy sex abuse crisis in the Archdiocese of Cologne and in other places.
Instead of transparency on the abuse front, clericalism, a “men’s alliance” mentality and the concern to protect the institution at all costs still reign, Bätzing lamented.
Along with his deputy Bishop Franz-Josef Bode and spokesman Hans Langendörfer, German Bishops’ head Bätzing was involved in talks with the Vatican November 12 – not on the place of women in the Church nor on the abuse crisis but instead on the controversial parish instruction the Vatican published in July.
According to the Bishops’ Conference, the conversation between Bätzing, Bode, Langendörfer and prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy Cardinal Beniamino Stella was “characterised by openness and mutual understanding” around the parish document, which a majority of German bishops criticised for strengthening clericalism and weakening lay-ordained co-responsibility.
Despite concerns that laypeople would not be involved in the German Bishops’ talks with the Vatican on the parish document, Cardinal Stella “expressly emphasised” that lay representatives “should of course also be present at the next meeting”, the German Bishops’ Conference said.