A German prelate urged pastors to better persuade and convince, explaining that “people no longer swallow something just because a bishop says it”.
Driving the news
Bishop of Mainz Peter Kohlgraf, 52, issued the call January 14 at an event at the Catholic Academy in Dresden.
To live as a Christian means not to be guided by earthly standards such as power, money, influence and property, Kohlgraf recalled.
But he added that a problem for the Church today is that this worldview is shared by many in society – “only on a different foundation” – and no longer differentiates the believer’s point of view, the bishop observed.
Hence the need for Church representatives, in a pluralist society, to better argue their position – but without letting themselves be reduced by a give-and-take politics to agents of a mere “values agency”.
“Above all, we impart the basis for values,” said the bishop.
Other detours the Church must avoid, according to Kohlgraf, are the temptation to turn in on itself in small communities, on the one hand, and the temptation to reinforce itself through the exercise of power, on the other.
Christians and parishes should not content themselves with being refugees and refuges from the world, the bishop insisted, but instead should “get out of their comfort zone” and become more active in bearing witness, but without proselytising.
Catholics and their churches can only live up to the Gospel if they are also open to others, Kohlgraf recalled.
Why it matters
“Getting out of the comfort zone” is something Kohlgraf and the Mainz diocese are preparing to do from next year, via a consolidation of the local Church’s present 134 parishes into just 50 by 2030.
But Kohlgraf said the concerns were based largely on the idea that the concept of “parish” would continue to be the same after the restructuration of the diocese.
“A simple enlargement of the area of the parishes with largely unchanged structures would indeed not be very promising”, the bishop recognised.
However, he explained that what the diocese wants with the restructuring is to create a “network of diverse communities and congregations in which faith can be lived on the ground and at the same time a good collaboration and cooperation be worked out”.
That diversity and shared leadership in parishes is something Kohlgraf also referred to last December, when he declared that “the image of the priest as a lone warrior is in my opinion out of date”.
On that occasion, the bishop also called for a new understanding of Church leadership, “which includes shared leadership, where leadership responsibilities can be delegated to non-ordained people, if necessary, including to non-full-time [Church] personnel”.