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Monday, December 15, 2014

Cardinal- "We do not need such "saviours of the West""

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Cardinal Rainer Woelki has been Archbishop of Cologne for three months. In this interview he talks about the construction sites in the Archdiocese, the controversies regarding the family in the Church and the challenges posed by anti-Islamic groups. 

CBA: Your Eminence, are all your moving boxes now unpacked? 

Woelki: No, there are still some in the hall, and my books are not yet arranged properly. The works in this house continue. So it will take a bit of time until I have finally arrived - at least as far as the housing situation here is concerned.


CBA: But your diary is certainly full. Do you feel like a third of Germans, under constant time pressure? 

Woelki: Especially in these Advent days, I sometimes am rushing from one appointment to the next. But I try to use my morning and evening periods of silence to internally prepare for Christmas. 

CBA: Do you do that before going to sleep? 

Woelki: I try in the evening always examie my conscience. I'm voting for it aware of the chapel. 

CBA: What is currently the largest "construction site" in the Archdiocese of Cologne? 

Woelki: Certainly the situation of many refugees. Here I am very grateful for the commitment of Caritas and the parishes. We support that with our "Action for New neighbors". Another challenge for me is to further explore the diocese. In addition, we will soon be discussing with the various bodies new priorities such as the pastoral plan and the distribution of personnel. Overall, we must see how we can handover the faith more to society. This is because, as a church, we are sent to the people. 

CBA: The income from the church tax increases, while the churches are empty, even in Cologne. Has the German church too much money and too little living faith? 

Woelki: With the church tax, we are actually well financed. Also thanks to the good economic conditions, revenue is currently increasing. We use these funds for the people which shows something about our commitment to refugees. In addition, there is an urgent need to rekindle the faith. I think the strong commitment of the Archdiocese of Cologne to refugee relief gives us a good opportunity to rediscover the faith and deepen it. Pope Francis wants us to evangelize the poor. One must not forget: As one of the largest employers we have obligations for pension and social welfare of our approximately 50,000 employees.

"Use the possibilities for marriage annulment" 

CBA: The survey for the family Synod triggered by Pope Francis shows that most Catholics quarrel with the Church's teaching on marriage, family and sexuality. How can this gap between the official church and the people continue? 

Woelki: That partnership and sexuality became seen in a more differentiated manner in the course of history and also lived differently, belongs to our humanity. The Church and the Synod now focus on fundamental issues such as the strengthening of the family and of sacramental marriage. This is an important difference from the many communities that have formed today into a pluralistic society. 

CBA: Dealing with divorced and remarried also involves conflict. Where do you see solutions? 

Woelki: The Pope has now told that we should not narrow down the question only to the reception of the sacraments. We must take this seriously. Dealing with remarried is an important pastoral challenge for us. Pope Benedict XVI has already made the remarks that the persons concerned should of course belong to church and community and can play a role here. Moreover, we should put more strongly into the foreground the possibilities offered us in ecclesiastical law by the instrument of marriage annulment. 

CBA: Is the church on the threshold of an ordeal? 

Woelki: I would rather speak of a process of searching. For me, it shows the vitality of the Church that controversy is used to find a path. I am sure that in the end the result will be that maintains unity and does not come to a split. 

CBA: The question of how euthanasia should be regulated in the future, currently splits both Christians and non-Christians. Where do you stand? 

Woelki: It is quite clear that life for us as Christians - Catholic as well as Protestant- is a gift of God - and thus also a task. Dying is included in this. Everyone has the right to a dignified death. Therefore, I am grateful that in politics there is a greater awareness that we need to expand palliative and hospice care. I believe that many people's fear of dying can be removed if they know and experience the possibilities of pain medicine and personal accompaniment. 

CBA: If the church involved in such ethical discussions today? 

Woelki: In my experience, yes. I am also glad that the two churches in ethical questions - though unfortunately not all - are together and are perceived as being together. We should present this externally to a greater degree. 

CBA: A question for the Caritas bishop in Germany: What about after the recent decision of the Constitutional Court to liberalize ecclesiastical employment law?

Woelki: The judgment has brought legal certainty for the churches. But it is not about an ecclesiastical privilege, but it also protects the self-determination of all ideological communities in a neutral state.

Ecclesiastical employment law: Examining more the individual case 

CBA: What exactly does that mean for church employees? 

Woelki: Not everyone who has married again civilly is dismissed from the church. That is a black and white painting, which does not reflect reality. We bishops will now take again the Church's labor in the view. We will be more than ever look at the individual case. In many areas of Caritas and church, employees are not necessarily bound with loyalty obligations of the Church. Women and men in the proclamation of the Gospel however must live according to the teachings of the church to fulfill its mission authentically. 

 CBA: As in Berlin, a large number of Muslims in the Archdiocese of Cologne. How to promote peace between religions - even in the face of many militant Salafists? 

Woelki: Christianity and Islam combine in the belief in a merciful God. Violence is never justifiable on religious grounds. There are unfortunately perversions both in the history of Christianity and Islam. These growths cannot be equated with religion. It is wrong to discriminate overall against Muslims in the face of violent excesses from the terrorist militia "Islamic State". On the other hand, militant Salafists look for nothing in a pluralistic constitutional state. In contrast, the way forward is to proceed by legal means. 

CBA: In contrast, counter-movements such as "Hooligans against Salafis" or "Patriots of Europe against Islamization of the West" (Pegida) take advantage of this mood. 

Woelki: We do not need such “saviours for the West”. We have to solve these challenges by legal means. It is good that the social groups and the Church have called for counter-demonstrations on Monday. 

The Cardinal at a "bring your own instrument" concert.
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