ECHO: Cardinal Lehmann, one of your concerns is to promote ecumenism. Pope Benedict has disappointed many Catholics, because he has rejected categorically shared communion . Do you see a chance to change that now?
Karl Lehmann: The hope must not be given up under any circumstances. But for us Catholics, the Eucharist is not shared at the beginning. It is the perfect destination. One must not forget that we have achieved a lot. I have experienced in my youth that Protestant children were beaten up in predominantly Catholic villages because they were Protestant. And vice versa. That's unthinkable today, fortunately.
ECHO: Nevertheless, for many lay people the ecumenical movement is too slow.
Lehmann: For that I have a very great understanding. I like to compare this with a mountain climb. The last 200, 300 meters are very difficult - even if you have already achieved a lot, if you have arrived at this point. We are in this situation with ecumenism.
ECHO: The Catholic Church is suffering from a shortage of priests. Even some priests in the Diocese of Mainz must serve several communities. How do you counteract you?
Lehmann: Only human management of matters cannot help. We can do many things, but we can not produce young people who is willing to place a lifetime at the service at the church. We can still be in the Diocese of Mainz actually quite happy. Compared to other dioceses, we have more priests. But there is also a shortage. On the other hand you have to see, we have the deacons, we have pastoral assistants, we have the parish officials. That is: More than 1000 people. We have far more people involved pastoral care as we've ever had. The problem is church services in the sense of Eucharistic celebrations.
ECHO: Are possible candidates frightened of celibacy?
Lehmann: Some hope to gain a lot if the celibacy requirement was lifted. I'm not convinced. It's not just the celibacy of priests, which keeps people away. We also have troubles in the church herself ...
ECHO: For example?
Lehmann: for example, the abuse scandals. And, do not forget: If someone wants to become a priest, he has a set path for his life. That's pretty strange for most people today.
ECHO: Not only the priest shortage is a problem. More and more people depart from the Christian churches.
Lehmann: Yes, that's true. But we are not alone. You have this in each political party, in sports clubs. In our pluralistic society, it is no longer so easy to have an authentic version of faith and to live.
ECHO: Cardinal Lehmann, the abuse of children and adolescents by Catholic priests has still not been properly dealt with. Last year, the church stopped an independent investigation. How will things proceed now?
Lehmann: The story of the investigation so far was unhappy, as there was not enough co-ordination on which facts should be made available, and whether those facts in the case of living persons should be made public. There are also questions of personal data protection. But we want to clarify further and do that too. We must not only think of the Research Institute in Hanover and to Professor Pfeiffer. We have already had more than ten years' experience with recognized guidelines for handling abuse cases. We have done, for example in schools, prevention work, we have rewarded many victims. Our diocese has agreed to evaluate all records dating back to 1945.
ECHO: At the end of 2012, Father Hendrick Jolie priest in Darmstadt-Dieburg, made headlines. He was active on the Internet portal kreuz.net which preached hatred of dissenters, homosexuals and against liberal clergy. They have warned him then that's it. If the case does it?
Lehmann: What should I have done more? Priests also have the freedom to express themselves and they have the opportunity to select a course in ecclesiastical politics.
ECHO: But it's the question of how and in what environment.
Lehmann: Father Kolie has apologized. I have as yet no reason to doubt that he has changed. I cannot talk on the one hand of reconciliation and reject on the other hand, the hand that reaches out. I myself have been so treated by kreuz.net over years and decades in a lousy maner. But I have rules about dealing with people. I'll even more "left" priests say things with which I disagree. This freedom must exist within the church.
ECHO: A liberal line ...
Lehmann: .., yes, that is a word ...
ECHO: ... which is often associated with you shortly ...
Lehmann: Yes. If liberal means complying with and granting freedom of expression thatis also fine. But freedom also includes obligation and responsibility, and - what concerns the Church - even obedience.