Germany’s Christian Churches prepare for their Third Ecumenical Kirchentag (ÖKT).
By Lisa Zengarini
Christian Churches in Germany are preparing for their Third Ecumenical Kirchentag (ÖKT – Church convention, ed), scheduled from 13 to 16 May in Frankfurt. The event, which will be the largest ecumenical gathering in the country this year, will take place in a virtual mode due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A lively digital celebration of faith
According to bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg , president of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK), and bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (Ekd), both the Catholic and the Evangelical Church expect a “lively digital celebration of faith” during the gathering.
Confessing the faith together
Speaking at a roundtable on Youtube last week, the two bishops emphasized that the focus should be on “confessing the faith together as Christians”, rather than “on what divides them”. They recalled the important steps made in the ecumenical dialogue since the joint commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation in 2017: “Reliability and trust have grown!”, they remarked.
A powerful experience centred on Christ
Reminding that “Martin Luther wanted one thing: to rediscover Christ”, bishop Bedford-Strohm said the commitments taken by both Churches in Germany in 2017 are a fundamental prerequisite for further dialogue and that, in this sense , the Ecumenical Kirchentag offers an opportunity for “a powerful experience centred on Christ”. “It is important for us as Churches to spread this witness in our congregations”, he added.
The importance of an open and constructive dialogue on ecumenical issues
On his part, Bishop Bätzing spoke about the “Synodal Path”, the process launched by the German Bishops in 2019, together with the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZDK), to discuss a range of theological and organizational issues following the abuse crisis and find new ways to address the present challenges of the Church in Germany. Referring to some objections by the Vatican to the initiative, the prelate emphasized the importance of “an open and constructive dialogue”, including on ecumenical issues (which at present concerns intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants, recently discussed with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ed).
The role of Churches in the COVID-19 crisis
Speaking about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its social consequences, the two bishops noted that the crisis has highlighted the important role Churches are called to play together and the opportunities it offers for renewal in the Church. “As Churches we want to have an impact on society. Drawing on the strength of spiritual sources, we want to move confidently into the future. And this should not give a sense of scarcity, but of fullness, a fullness given to us by Christ”, bishop Bedford-Strohm said. Bishop Bätzing noted, on his part, that the Ecumenical Kirchentag is a good opportunity for Christian witness in these difficult times in which people are looking for answers.