A “Francis bishop” in Germany says Church is becoming irrelevant

Heiner Wilmer, bishop of Hildesheim Photo: Moritz Frankenberg/dpa (MaxPPP TagID: dpaphotosthree820003.jpg) [Photo via MaxPPP]

From La Croix International:

Catholics in Germany formally left the Church in record numbers last year. The exact figure was 272,771 – a statistic recently confirmed by the national episcopal conference.

And Bishop Heiner Wilmer, a religious order priest that Pope Francis selected two years ago to lead the northern diocese of Hildersheim, fears there could be a further drop in church attendance due to the coronavirus crisis.

But in a July 1 article in the diocesan paper, the 59-year-old bishop said he feared something worse than this so-called “Corona effect”.

Wilmer is more worried that Church is losing its import. Put bluntly, he says the Church’s relevance in society is diminishing. 

A “Francis bishop” with a broad worldview

Although he’s been bishop for a relatively short time, he has a broad vision and knowledge of the Church beyond the borders of Germany.

He was completing his third year as worldwide superior general of the Dehonians (Priests of the Sacred Heart) when the pope called him to episcopal service. And as bishop, Wilmer has approached his ministry much in the same way and manner as Francis. 

In his recent article, he said phenomena like clerical sexual abuse, Church structures and Church tax are only ostensible causes for the decline of Catholicism. But what’s really at the heart of the matter, he said, is the question of the Church’s relevance.

“We, as a Church, and therefore our interpretation of life, are becoming less important,” he said. 

In today’s societies, the Catholic Church is only one “provider” among many other alternatives that gives meaning to people’s lives, he noted. 

“Power centers” vs. the classical parish

Instead of classical parishes with their claim to exclusivity, the bishop said the Church needs more vibrant “power centers” that radiate presence and charisma.

He said committed lay Christians, rather than priests, should run these centers. They would be found, for example, within universities or house communities. 

“I don’t want to talk down classical parishes, but we need alternatives to the proclamation of the Gospel message,” Bishop Wilmer said.

Believing requires Christians to be physically present. They must learn how to live and proclaim the Gospel message and not flee into cyberspace, he underlined. 

“It is a case of being together, walking through life shoulder to shoulder and sitting opposite one another at the kitchen table, at the workplace, where people are growing old, where they are sick and frail, laughing and weeping together, face to face, and really being present physically,” he insisted.

More than 8,000 Catholics officially left the Church in Hildesheim Diocese in 2019. That’s over 1,000 more than in the previous year. 

The overall number of Catholics in the diocese shrunk from 593,360 in 2018 to 581,460 in 2019. 

Christa Pongratz-Lippitt writes from Vienna where she has spent many years as a reporter and commentator on Church affairs in the German-speaking world.

CP&S Comment: Let us pray for this Bishop and for the crumbling Church in Germany.

See also: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/survey-finds-30-of-german-catholics-are-considering-leaving-church-73824

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2 Responses to A “Francis bishop” in Germany says Church is becoming irrelevant

  1. Sally says:

    Once again we see that more emphasis is being placed on the vital role of the laity within the church. 🌷


  2. mmvc says:

    The laity’s role in the Church is vital indeed, especially now that many of our Shepherds have distanced themselves from the Truth and abandoned us. But only a priest can confect the Sacraments and no amount of packed gospel proclaiming ‘power centres’ can ever replace our consecrated churches, Holy Masses and the Eucharist, “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324)


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