Monday, October 16, 2017

Media director who made refugee boat into altar fired for foolish tweet

Media director Mayer leaves archbishopric Cologne
He succeeded in obtaining one or another PR coup for the archbishopric of Cologne. But then Mediendirektor Ansgar Mayer got a tweet in the headlines. At the end of the year he will give up his office.

The Media Director of the Archdiocese of Cologne, Ansgar Mayer, will left the diocese at the end of the year at his own request. According to the archbishopric on Monday, the reason was a new task in Hamburg, which he wanted to concentrate on. Mayer had only taken over in January 2016 the former staff office and converted it to the main department of media and communication. He headed three departments with around 40 employees and developed, among other things, a holistic media strategy for all platforms and channels.
The Archbishopric regretted Mayer's decision. He had succeeded in establishing a corporate communication which meets the needs of the time, said Vicar General. Dominik Meiering. In addition, the 45-year-old had a "PR coup" for the archbishopric. Thus, media attention was attracted from beyond the German borders, when Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki used a refugee boat in front of the Cologne Cathedral as an altar.
Corpus Christi in Cologne
Negative headlines

At last, however, Mayer had drawn attention to himself with his personal negative headline. In a tweet about the many electors' votes for the Alternative for Germany in Saxony (a depressed state in former Eastern Germany), he had written after the Bundestag election: "Czech Republic, how about: We take your nuclear waste, you take Saxony?" On top of that, there were some critical reactions, which were spread over Twitter and Facebook as well as on numerous Internet portals. Later, Mayer asked for forgiveness. Whether or not his present departure from the Archbishopric of Cologne is also connected with these occurrences was not divulged by the Archbishopric.

Mayer was born in 1972 in Ellwangen. He studied political science, history, journalism and Catholic theology. Among other things he was head of the Crossmedia training at the Axel-Springer-Akademie from 2007 to 2012 and from December 2012 until his change to Cologne on the board of the "Computerbild" in Hamburg.


Cardinal asks forgiveness for the way the Church has treated the divorced, separated and remarried

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin presented on Sunday, October 15 to a full cathedral the "paths of discernment" proposed by Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia.

After Rouen and Le Havre, Lyon is the third diocese to organize such a meeting, to "concretely implement" the Apostolic Exhortation on the Family.

Catherine waits on the forecourt. A book under her arm, she watched Cardinal Philippe Barbarin. For an hour the Archbishop of Lyon lingered with those "people who had experienced a marital breakdown", whom he invited on Sunday evening 15 October, to exchange thoughts with him in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. The night has fallen, Catherine can finally hand the work to him. A copy of The Joy of Love, the apostolic exhortation on the family that this childcare assistant asks the cardinal to dedicate. Before starting the conversation.

At her side, her new companion, Laurent. This maintenance technician had to "leave" his parish, at the same time that he separated from his wife. Like Élodie, "unmarried mother", who joined the exchange. "We had to be accepted elsewhere," she regrets. "We feel that the Church is no longer fixed on these issues," underlined Laurent, 52 years old. Catherine and I went to see the priest freshly arrived in our parish. He welcomed us. "

Ensure to "never use the language of the permitted and the forbidden"

Symbolically seated among the crowd at the beginning of the encounter, and then encountered in the shadow of a pillar, the cardinal applauded at the end of the six testimonies of "separated, divorced or divorced remarried Catholics ", delivered before a full cathedral. This, a year and a half after the publication of Amoris laetitia. And ten days after meeting Pope Francis, with 80 priests of the diocese. "When I asked the priests: What theme would you like him to talk to?", The answers were unanimous: "On Amoris laetitia chapter 8" to "accompany, discern and integrate fragility" ", says the cardinal.

For it is "a difficult road" opened by the Pope, commented the Archbishop of Lyon. Starting from the points on which Francis insisted on to the Lyon delegation. First of all, to consider "people first" and not marital situations. Next, make sure to "never use the language of the permitted and forbidden".
A "difficult road", therefore, that some priests of the diocese borrowed. Like Father Franck Gacogne, parish priest of Saint-Benoît, in Bron, standing beside Florence and Georges. It is they who speak, with a voice. Twelve years ago, they sought to "reconnect with the Church", especially during the baptism of their three children. But they had long received only "inadequate answers," they say modestly.

The cardinal wanted to "ask for forgiveness"

Other witnesses do not hide the sufferings. Some say they have found themselves found in a "club of outcasts". "Neither judged nor dismissed from the Christian life," another person confides nevertheless "to be confronted with contradictory, indifferent or embarrassed positions of certain pastors". And the cardinal insisted on "asking for forgiveness," before handing each of the witnesses a copy of the apostolic exhortation.

Finally, Florence and George were heard, in the person of the parish priest of Bron. "Are you at peace?" This was his first question, "reports the couple who are both divorced and now remarried, who then chose to get involved in the local community, by holding welcoming consultations. The beginning of a long journey. They were now going to Mass as a family. But they felt "lonely on their bench" at the time of communion. "The more we find our place, the less we feel we have the right to have it," they summarize.

Thanks to the paths opened by Amoris laetitia, the priest offered them a support, based on a course built by the Reliance Teams linked to the Teams of Our Lady. Then they prepared "a celebration with a blessing of our couple". At the next Sunday mass, they returned to the Eucharist. And they became even more involved in the parish, especially with other divorced-remarried couples, who were in turn engaged in a path of discernment. Before, "possibly", like them, an access to the sacraments.

Reception groups are still rare

This prudence is in line with that of Cardinal Barbarin, who developed the question at length, recalling that "access to communion has always been a delicate problem in the Church" for all Christians. As for the divorced-remarried, of course, he says, "when a person cannot bear not being able to communicate and finally decides, because of this internal hurt, not to come to Mass, it would be absurd and inhuman to continue to wield a banning sign in front of them. " "For some people, the Cardinal repeated several times, this path of faith will go through the fact of going communion, for others to participate in the mass without communion, like Charles Peguy. "

The important thing in the eyes of the Cardinal is above all to enable those "in a situation of rupture" to "find their place in the Church". And, from this point of view, there is still some way to go.
The Florence and Georges route is a rare example of support driven by a parish dynamic. "Some of my colleagues are aware of the issue, but perhaps they prefer personal support," says Father Franck Gacogne, “While the ecclesial dimension seems important to me”. In fact, few parishes in the diocese of Lyon have for the time being set up a reception group for people whose marriage has broken down.

The latter are currently invited by Bénédicte and Édouard Michoud, episcopal delegates for the pastoral care of families, to "continue with their local community, their parish". Without a "single path", they insist, the important thing being "to overcome possible fears". On the part of the people whose marriage has broken down, as on the part of the local communities.


Radio Vatican deeply concerned about the result of the Austrian election

Austria has decided that the People's Party under Sebastian Kurz has emerged as a clear victor of the elections this Sunday. In short, the government has now a mandate. This scenario also seems to suggest a coalition of the People's Party with the liberal-populist FPÖ. It was a difficult choice for Christians in the country, whose election campaign was also marked by mutual hits beneath the belt and populism.

Sebastian Kurz, however, could now become a source of hope for the Alpine region: this is maintained by the electoral observer and Catholic publicistm Heinz Nußbaumer. The political pressure from the right was undeniable, but now had to be conducted in quieter waters, says Nußbaumer in conversation with Vatican Radio. "Both parties - the ÖVP and the FPÖ - who have called for a stricter, the FPÖ even for a very strict migration policy, have won very strongly. The issues of security, migration, fear of Islamism were certainly the dominant motives. The second phenomenon is the deep-seated wish of the Austrians to change the basic constants of politics. "

According to Nußbaumer, this constellation of electoral themes, which was "massively overplayed" in the election campaign, had made the vote so complicated for Christians: "The decisive factor for me as a Christian on election day was the fact that precisely those two parties, have presented themselves as the hardest in terms of migration, dealing with refugees, and closing refugee routes. "

The Christian faith had been a "sign of our culture and identity" but Christian content was missing. In this context, Nußbaumer points to the theologian Paul Michael Zulehner, who had already identified the precarious situation for Christians before the election: "Not a few Christians will be politically homeless this time because political action on the refugee question, these populist simplifications and the lack of a Christian inspired and attractive vision of an Austria of the future disrupts many committed believers and has brought them into a difficult emotional isolation. "

The scaremongering of the threatened Islamization might thus have possibly decided the Austrian election, the more important is now a rethink, says the long-term head of the Austrian Presidential chancery. "We must now look to see if these two parties [ÖVP and FPÖ, Note], should they jointly form a coalition, then descend from this exposed position given governmental responsibility."

In any case, he expects a Chancellor such as Kurz to say that the "exclusion emotions" observed in the election campaign will now be replaced by "a more moderate and responsible attitude, but also a humanitarian and Christian understanding", Nußbaumer is confident.


See also Bishops take on the political right

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Muslim public holiday in Germany being considered by German Interior Minister

When Thomas de Maizière chatted in Wolfenbüttel on Monday evening, he did not know that he was stirring  a heated debate. It belongs to the essence of the 63-year-old, sometimes to let his thoughts to hang, sometimes a little chat, without larger plan behind it. But because he is the Federal Minister of the Interior, even the smallest talk can become a big number.

At the invitation of the election campaigning CDU party colleagues De Maizière drove to Lower Saxony. On Sunday is Regional Elections and it could be quite close. In the venue called Komm, it was about refugee policy, about integration and the so-called "defining culture". As Minister of the Interior, he feels "responsible for the social context", he said, according to a report from the portal, and said: "Now is the question, what is it, in the traditional sense of the word, the rubber band binding society, and what to do so that it does not tear? "

Thomas de Maizière now experiences how difficult this rubber band when it is already under tension. In the course of the evening, he also commented on German holidays and said, ""I'm ready to talk about whether we could introduce a Muslim holiday. Maybe one might like to do this. There are also regions where there is All Saints' Day, elsewhere not. Where there are many Catholics, there is the Feast of All Saints, where there are few, there is no All Saints. Where there are many Muslims; why cannot you think about a Muslim holiday?

De Maizière then became louder and emphasized: "But our holidays are a Christian one, and that should remain so. Whitsun, Easter, Christmas."

What remained of it in a country in which even the Greens are currently discussing the term "Heimat"? That the Interior Minister thinks about introducing Muslim holidays in Germany. (His general additional comment is less important.)  This leads to considerable excitement, especially in his party CDU and his Bavarian sister CSU.  They really wanted to close "the right flank", following the modest results at the German Parliamentary election three weeks ago. And this obviously excludes the inclusion of Muslim fasting or the Feast of Sacrifice (Eid) as a holiday in the German calendar.

"Our Christian heritage is not negotiable," said CSU regional group leader, Alexander Dobrindt of the Bild . "To introduce Islamic holidays in Germany is out of the question for us." Party colleagues, Joachim Herrmann, Manfred Weber and Stephan Mayer expressed similar opinions. The CSU hace not been so united for a long time. So as not to leave the AfD any more space, the party shortened De Maizier's statement to the maximum and poured ridicule on it. "De Maiziere for Muslim holiday!" states an AfD poster on the Internet and to this: "We propose February 30th !

De Maiziere also received criticism from his CDU . Lower Saxony's election campaigner Bernd Althusmann was not very pleased with the statement, he was likely to fear losing electoral votes of his conservative clientele. "Holidays have a long tradition in Germany, and I see no need to change these structures," said Regional Head. Interior expert, Wolfang Bosbach explained that Germany had a Christian-Jewish religious character, and not an Islamic one. The SPD chairman Martin Schulz has already stated: "I have noted above all the ways in which Mr De Maizière is immediately kicked by his own ranks."

De Maizière: Holidays marked by Christianity

Thomas de Maizière is obviously uncomfortable with the hustle and bustle of the game. It was not, after all, a fundamental consideration or political initiative, but rather was expressed in the small Wolfenbütteler Saal. On Saturday, the German Ministry of the Interior told the Süddeutsche Zeitung : "Minister De Maizière has made it clear that our holidays are shaped by Christianity and that this should remain so." Although he was ready to talk about individual Muslim holidays in certain regions, he said, "but in principle, he maintains that our holiday culture has precisely Christian and no other roots."

It also points out that the German constitution guarantees freedom of religious exercise. This also means that people can celebrate their religious festivals. The city states of Hamburg and Bremen have therefore concluded agreements with Muslim associations, according to which Muslim pupils can be exempted from high school on Islamic holidays and can take leave of their employees. In fact, other states would also proceed in this way.

But the impression remains that the Union is currently not prepared for a differentiated discussion about Muslim holidays in Germany. Especially not the CSU. The shock of the rise of the right-wing populists from the AfD has hit deeply, they would prefer for such topics not to be raised. Especially when they come from their own ranks.


Call for female deacons and married priests from progressive episcopal supporter of Pope Francis

Bishop Paul Iby emerges as a strong supporter of the incumbent Pope and the path he has set the church. "Francis had become my Pope," writes the 82-year-old bishop in his now-published book "Trust in God and Life." In Eisenstadt 1999, Iby had launched a dialogue initiative with reformists urging reform and received harsh criticism for this. However, the confirmation had come with Francis in 2013 that "the Church must follow this path of dialogue with the people" Pope Francis had become my Pope. Seen like this, I had become a bishop too early.

According to the Austrian bishop, the topic of women was also important. In Rome, he had committed himself to the consecration of female deacons. He is still convinced of the correctness of this request. "When the Church really studies the question of female ordination and is intensely occupied with it, this time will come. Similar to the abolition of the obligation celibacy. "


Bishops take on political right-wing

Bishops against populists throughout the world

The AfD in Germany, the FPÖ in Austria, Trump in the USA: Populism seems to be gaining ground worldwide. This is challenged by the church. For in fact, it depends on the separation from the state. But more and more bishops are departing from this principle – and are making criticism

The state and the church are strictly separated in democratic countries in the best case. But sometimes the spiritual power raises its voice in the political debate. In the past few months, this has been the case several times around the world, supported by the growth of populist forces. The most recent example comes from Austria, where church representatives found warning words before the upcoming national election. "The aggravation in the words and the gestures hurts me," said the newly-appointed Innsbruck Bishop Hermann Glettler at the beginning of the month.

Fear of "real harm" for democracy

Above all the style of the current election campaign excited Glettler's displeasure. Offensive statements by the party leaders about each other led to discussions all over the country. A scandal was even associated with the Social Democratic SPÖ, which had specially engaged a specialist for "dirty election campaigning". The Austrian Caritas , too , had a serious warning: "If this continues, I am afraid of real harm to our democracy," said President Michael Landau a few days ago. At the same time, he insisted on "basic principles such as cohesion, respect, honesty and a minimum of decency".
According to the recent survey, three quarters of the population in Austria believe in the Catholic faith. Therefore, objections by church representatives have weight from the outset. However, objections such as these are nevertheless remarkable and owed to the exceptional political situation of the country: the election procedure of the new Federal President, Alexander Van der Bellen, who took office at the beginning of the year, lasted seven months. Unprecedented antics and mishaps in the course of this period were detrimental to the democratic discourse, at least to the extent that they were playing into the hands of the right-wing populist, FPÖ.

One week after the Austrians, the Czechs are also called upon to elect a new parliament. There, too, the bishops are currently concerned about political culture. In a statement, the bishops' conference called on the citizens of the country to participate in the election earlier this week, not following "cheap promises of rapid change". Rather, the electorate should prefer decency. This would "not be replaced in the political scene by arrogance and vulgarity".

The populism warning of the Czech bishops can be understood as a wink in the direction of the favourite, Andrej Babis. An investigation into the embezzlement of EU subsidies has just been initiated against the billionaire. His "Political Movement ANO 2011" is currently the second strongest force in parliament and according to current polls would clearly win the upcoming election. However, observers see in the party a populist protest movement without any substantive policies.
French bishops against the Front National

But just as populists were ideologically more clearly positioned in recent months, the Church interfered in political debates. Even in France, where laicism as a republican achievement is otherwise respected from all sides, many bishops broke a promise in the past presidential election. For, indeed, the chief shepherds were anxious to keep away from every conception of partisanship; especially after the departure of the French Catholic candidate, Francois Fillon . Just a week before the election day in May, two bishops expressed their opposition to the right-wing candidate, Marine Le Pen . The populist was still considered a favourite in the polls, but ultimately fell sharply against the independent, Emmanuel Macron,

For quite other reasons than their French brothers in office, the Polish bishops have also recently been subjected to political criticism. In the most Catholic state of Europe, the church has traditionally been on the side of the government since the turn of the century ; also because political opposition still generates scepticism in the young democracy. But the majority government of the national conservative party, PiS, which has been in power for two years, has put the traditional tolerance of the bishops to the test.

When the new government began to remove power the constitutional court of the country at the end of 2015, the church remained calm. Later the Episcopal Conference called for a pacification of the embittered debate. The shepherds, on the other hand, did not comment on the threatened dismantling of the rule of law. However, one year later, when the conflict between the government and the opposition had become even sharper, their demand became clearer: both sides would have to stop talking in slogans and talk with each other.

Polish bishops criticize the government

In September 2017, there was finally clear and clear criticism of the government . The bishops turned against the idea, virulent in government circles, of demanding reparations for the Second World War from Germany. For the bishops, who had made one of the strongest signs of reconciliation after the war, through the reconciliation with their German brothers in office, this was an unacceptable affront against newly won friends.

Populist provocations are currently also the order of the day in the USA and concern the Catholic Church in the country. The relationship of the bishops to the competing parties is ambivalent as in no other democracy as in the United States. While a broad support for Hillary Clinton emerged before the presidential elections last November, the US bishops deliberately withdrew. From their point of view, the Democrat did not only address ethically questionable positions, for example, in matters of life protection. One month before the election day, moreover, complaints were made about Catholics from Clinton's election campaign. In the end, the chief shepherds declared that the issue of life protection was a crucial test for Catholics and indirectly helped Republican Donald Trump.

After the billionaire had won the election with the help of a majority of the Catholic electorate, the bishops began to make progress in abortion. At the same time, it quickly became clear that the Church would have to contradict the Republican in most other questions. Whether migration, the entry ban or the North Korean conflict: on all the decisions which Trump exploits for propaganda, there are criticisms from the bishops. It was only on Wednesday that the Bishop's conference called Trump climate policy a "disappointment".

Marx wants "verbal disarmament" after the German Parliamentary election

The bishops in Austria and the Czech Republic can still hope that they will not lose out after the elections in their respective countries. But it is more likely that the populists will also celebrate their successes there. Thus, despite all warnings from the Church, the entry of the AfD into the recently elected Bundestag was also foreseeable. The German bishops, however, remained on their line to reject populism. In a first statement, the President of the German Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, called for "verbal disarmament" after the election campaign. He especially hoped that he would not have to hear in the future: "the language of hatred and exclusion".