Christians gather for interfaith congress
With appeals for peace and greater social justice, hundreds of thousands of Christians joined together in Munich on Thursday for Germany's biggest interfaith meeting since the recent Catholic child abuse scandal came to light.
Leaders of country’s two biggest Christian denominations acknowledged they had to work to win back the trust of the community at the 2nd Ecumenical Church Congress, which aims to strengthen ties between the churches and put aside theological differences in favour of common humanitarian aspirations.
Pope Benedict sent a written welcome message in which he denounced child abuse by priests as a “weeds” around the Catholic Church.
Munich’s Catholic Archbishop, Reinhard Marx, and Bavaria’s Protestant Bishop, Johannes Friedrich, joined together for a sermon on the virtues of strengthening unity and co-operation between the churches – known as ecumenism.
An estimated 300,000 people took part in street parties Wednesday night. The Church Day, which officially kicked of yesterday and runs until Sunday, includes more than 3,000 interfaith events.
Former Protestant leader Margot Käßmann, who resigned amid a drink-driving scandal in February, earned a warm welcome with wild applause at her first major public appearance since her resignation.
“Thanks, that’s doing me good,” she said on Thursday when she was greeted with applause by 6,000 supporters.
Käßmann used her address to reiterate her criticism of Germany involvement in the war in Afghanistan – a public stance that earned her criticism while she was leader of the Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD). She said priority should be given to civilian reconstruction.
Käßmann was forced to step down as leader of the Protestant umbrella church after she ran a red light while driving drunk. Her quick resignation and admission of fault was widely perceived as a dignified exit, however, which won her respect from Protestants and Catholics alike.
“She’s an example for the young people. She has broken a law and she took responsibility for it. That’s important, because everybody makes mistakes,” said audience member Angelika Kistner.
Later, at a discussion on women and power in the clergy, Käßmann was asked by an audience member about her own loss of power.
“Loss of power also means freedom,” she said.
At her bible reading, Käßmann said that people are not perfect, yet they are loved anyway by their God and their fellow men.
“No person is without fault or blame,” she said.