Archbishop of Freiburg: Mercy For Remarried Catholics

The President of the German Conference of Bishops, Robert Zollitsch (left) is convinced that in the near future, the Catholic Church will reform its position toward believers who divorce and remarry. “It’s a question of mercy - shortly we will be discussing it intensely,” said Zollitsch in an interview with the German weekly Die Zeit.

“I don’t think that the goal of celibacy is the solution for the worldwide Church, but I think that we will take steps forward on the question of divorced and remarried persons – and I think we will do it while I am still alive,” continued the seventy-three year old Archbishop of Freiburg.

At this time, divorced and remarried Catholics cannot take communion. This subject plays an indirect role in the Pope’s visit to Germany, planned from 22 to 25 September, as Benedict XVI was invited by the German President Christian Wulff - a separated and remarried Catholic. “For me, Wulff is a Catholic who lives his faith and suffers from the situation,” explained Zollitsch.

The president of the German bishops then displayed a certain annoyance with the slowness of reforms within the Catholic Church: “At times even I start getting tired, and I think ‘Why doesn’t it go more quickly?’ At times I have to infuse myself with the necessary patience.” In Rome, continued Zollitsch, there are quarters that “immediately smell apostasy when in Germany we argue a little more controversially.” But here “we debate questions of faith differently than in Italy. This openness to discussion that we have in Germany isn’t easily understood in Rome.” Certainly the Pope does not, but “some cardinals” do.

He admitted that this is a consequence of the Protestant Reformation: “From Rome, Germany is willfully seen – not by the Holy Father – as the country of schism.” However, the German Catholic Church is often appreciated around the world as a financier. “Germans count very much where there is someone who needs money,” notes Zollitsch. Today, he recalls, the costs for priest training in Latin America are largely covered by Germany, which also finances 60% of the priests in South Africa.

With regard to the Pope’s visit to Germany, the president of the German bishops is clear: “We cannot overburden it with too many expectations: he himself is very realistic and says that we can’t think that Germany will be completely different the day after his visit.” Benedict XVI will, however, set off “an impulse” on the question of the ecumene.

Finally, the Zollitsch interview tackles the issue of the relationship between Catholics and politics. “I am happy that there is a party that has a C for Christian in its name,” he notes, referring to the CDU, the Christian-Democratic party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, and its Bavarian twin, CSU. In any case, today more than in the past, every Catholic must personally consider his or her voting decision, adds the head of the Conference of Bishops, who also praises the German Greens: they have changed, and today their positions have some points in common with Christian convictions.

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