Head of German Bishops determined to found a parallel Church

Daring to set out

Bishop Dr Georg Bätzing celebrates the anniversary of St Joseph's Church in Koblenz

Daring to make a new start


Courage to experiment, good ideas to inspire people anew for God and trust in God. This is what Bishop Dr Georg Bätzing wished the faithful of St Joseph's parish in Koblenz. On Sunday, 23 July, the Bishop of Limburg and President of the German Bishops' Conference was a guest in the Rhine-Moselle city and celebrated the festive service for the 125th anniversary of the parish church. Bätzing is well known in the parish. He was chaplain at St Joseph's 35 years ago.

Such a great inheritance can clearly not be entrusted to the Bishop

"125 years ago, after the oppressive times of the Kulturkampf, the Catholic Church in this city felt it was facing a great epoch of growth," Bätzing said. The population had grown rapidly and had been sustainably shaped by industrialisation and services. The magnificent St Joseph's Church had become the focal point of the developing southern city of Koblenz and a symbol of a new self-confidence of Catholics in the Rhineland within the Protestant Prussian state.

Churches are no longer opinion leaders 

Today, he said, a different reality is being experienced. Less than half of the citizens in Germany still belong to one of the two large Christian denominations. This fact has an impact in all areas, including the debates on religious policy, church taxes, state benefits, the cooperative relationship between the church and public authorities in educational and social institutions, and the right of the church to regulate its own affairs, such as labour law. This is reflected in the alarmingly high numbers of people leaving the church and above all in the major ethical debates currently being conducted, such as those on assisted suicide or abortion and their legal regulations. "There, with our Christian-based argumentation, we have long since ceased to be perceived as opinion leaders, let alone accepted as such due to the loss of trust that we have attributed to ourselves through the handling of sexual abuse and decades of cover-up strategies," the Bishop said in his sermon.

This change and the loss of relevance of the Church can also be seen at the parish level. The old structures are no longer viable and competition between church locations or parishes is certainly a waste of love and energy. "The old structure is no longer suitable for the future. All this does not mean the end of the Church, I am sure of that, but it does mean the end of a certain institutional form of the Church that was formative for just 100 years, but of which we have the impression that it has always been like this and should actually remain like this," said Bätzing.

The past does not save the Church 

It does not help to close one's eyes to reality and the church crisis. The past does not save the Church, even if it was perceived by many as a time of prosperity. There had been well-attended services, intact youth work with scouts and altar boys, many volunteers and also spiritual vocations. However, there had also been abuse of power and lack of freedom during this time, which had hindered rather than promoted self-determined religious development and genuine faith in God.

Today, he said, the Church is in times of sowing. 

"New ideas are needed on how we can found the Church differently, how we can address people in a new way for the fundamental processes of worship, proclamation and selfless service," 

Bätzing said. We need the courage to experiment and people with courage who dare to experiment, against the resistance of those who always object that this has never been done before and that we will see that it is useless.


Jesus' message is different. He encourages us to try and get started. Jesus says: "It is possible. Begin. Sow seed. Speak of your own experience with God. Start praying, personally and every day. Open the Holy Scriptures, preferably read them together and interpret them from your everyday life. Go out to the people and seek Christ there, in their sorrows and joys. Do not stay among yourselves. Come together to thank God and to be strengthened by the Eucharist," Bätzing called out to the hundreds of believers. This departure will not succeed without conflicts. But it is worthwhile to dare to set out and to trust in God. "The seed of faith can grow," said the Bishop.