Head of German Bishops attacks Cardinal Müller

A conversation about hope, the AfD and women in the church

Limburg Bishop Georg Bätzing (62) heads the bishops' conference

Limburg Bishop Georg Bätzing (62) has been head of the German bishops since 2020. The organist from the Westerwald wanted to become a pastor since his childhood. In 2016 he became the successor to Protz Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst (64). Both are fighting for the major renovation: Tebartz-van Elst concentrated on the luxury renovation of the Limburg bishop's house. Bätzing, completely different, wants to reorganize the church. Pope Francis already joked about Bätzing's reform plans: “There is a very good Protestant church in Germany. We don't need two.” In a talk with BILD am SONNTAG in the 800-year-old cathedral with seven towers, the man of God vividly explains the meaning of Easter.

BILD: What is the core of Easter?

Bishop Georg Bätzing: “The core of Easter is belief in the resurrection, and that is also the core of our entire Christian faith. Saint Paul had already recognized this. He said: If Christ has not risen, then everything we do is meaningless and hollow. (...) The most beautiful experience for me is always the Easter Vigil. You notice the change from darkness to light, from listening to singing, from lyrics that talk about liberation and you feel that a hope grows in this transition. That’s Easter for me.”

What exactly is this Easter hope?

Georg Bätzing: “Our life does not end with death, but continues. It is a whole eternity that God grants us, and that is why we do not have to achieve everything in life, nor do everything that is possible. And: We can hope that those who have become victims here, who are torn from their lives, now through the unspeakable wars or terror, that they will be allowed to live on, that they will be given something that will continue, especially justice for what was done to them.”

Bätzing's tone becomes more internal, but also more decisive. His words seem to come from the core of his convictions. It becomes clear that this is where the core of his theology lies.

On Easter morning people came to the tomb and the tomb was empty ...

Georg Bätzing: “Jesus had to be buried quickly and quietly because the Passover festival was beginning and it was the Sabbath, and nothing was allowed to be done. They come early in the morning after the Sabbath to anoint Jesus again to perform burial rites, and the large stone in front of the tomb has been rolled away. The grave is empty. Jesus lives!"

That is certain for Bätzing.

What is truth?

Georg Bätzing: “The truth for me is: This Jesus is the path of my life. This Jesus can be the path to peace for everyone. This Jesus is God's promise to the world that things will turn out well. That’s the truth for me.”

Why are more and more believers losing faith in the church?

Georg Bätzing: “The church has made big mistakes in the past and lost credibility. The abuse and the way it was dealt with, the cover-up, has robbed many people of their confidence that the church can be a home for them. Many people expect reforms from the church and do not see them. Others are satisfied with their own lives. Secularity is increasing. You look forward to your vacation, to the next party, to free time, to retirement. God is evaporating in our western society. People are turning away from the church and what it offers.”

Bätzing expresses his tough analysis completely calmly. You don't notice the strenuous negotiations in the Vatican last week.

Most recently, Pope Francis (83) caused confusion among believers. Keyword: “White Flag”. The head of the church had clearly sided with the aggressor Russia in the Ukraine conflict. They had to whistle him back...

Georg Bätzing: “In his elaborate speeches, Francis made it clear: Who is the aggressor? This is Russia! Who is the invaded country? This is Ukraine. But there was this interview by the Pope that irritated many. Me too. This left many Catholic Ukrainians very disturbed and very irritated. The keyword white flag was put into the Pope's mouth and he picked it up. That was wrong. What he wanted to say was: When will the time come for negotiations so that people can think beyond the war? I also ask myself: How long should the war continue? How long should thousands of people die every day? The attacks on Kiev again during Holy Week, it's unspeakable! I would have liked the Pope to address Russia and say: Now is the time for negotiations and to silence the weapons. Every day of war is one day too many. Ukraine must be ready to negotiate, but it will not want to give up its freedom and sovereignty. Ukraine defends itself. This right of self-defense is a legitimate right, the aggressor must stop.”

Bishop Bätzing vs. Pope

“Ukraine decides when to negotiate”

Don't the occupied areas have to be evacuated first?

Georg Bätzing: “Ukraine has every right to set the conditions for such a conversation. And she has every right to choose when.”

AfD topic: You clearly differentiate the Catholic Church from Nazi impersonators like Höcke and Co. But there is headwind from Rome. Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller accused them of being “traffic light election agents”…

Georg Bätzing: “Cardinal Müller is a retired cardinal who no longer has a job. He comments on many developments around the world. Sometimes a bit too hasty. We have made a declaration against ethnic nationalism. Because we see our liberal democracy at risk from attacks by right-wing extremist forces in our country, which are constantly increasing, which are trapping more and more people, including through lies, through false statements, through election programs that obscure more than they make clear. If we want to protect this democracy, then we must also name who the threats to this democracy are.”

By demarcating the church from the AfD, Bätzing managed to show a clear stance last September. The Catholic Church led the way on an important social issue and not meekly lagged behind as usual. During the conversation, the bishop clenches a fist.

Back to the Catholic Church. Which reforms could help?

Georg Bätzing: “I am of the opinion that it does not distort the essence of the church if women assume leadership, responsibility and decisions on an equal basis with men.”

Supreme Bishop in an interview

“I want to ordain deaconesses”

Will you ordain women priests during your time as Bishop of Limburg?

Georg Bätzing: “I don't dare think that, but I would be happy if I could ordain a deaconess. That would be a first step and I think we could really implement it in a timely manner so that women become visible with what they are already doing in the church. And: I couldn't imagine church without women. But this also has to be done officially with a sacramental office: deaconess in the church. I think it would be wonderful!”