German Catholic Church appoints first female secretary

Germany's Catholic bishops elected a woman as their general secretary for the first time on Tuesday, in a decision hailed as a "strong sign" of modernisation in the crisis-hit Church.

German Catholic Church appoints first female secretary
Beate Gilles in Bonn on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Theologian Beate Gilles, 50, will succeed Hans Langendörfer on July 1st as a high-ranking official charged with implementing decisions taken by the

“This is a strong sign that the bishops are acting on their agreement to promote women into leadership positions,” said Georg Bätzing, president of the bishops' conference.

Langendörfer is retiring after 24 years in the role.

The council of 68 bishops are meeting via video conference this week in a virtual spring council overshadowed by a scandal over the controversial cardinal of Cologne Rainer Maria Woelki.

READ ALSO: Tensions mount in German Catholic Church over abuse report

Woelki, a powerful archbishop, has blocked the publication of a report about alleged sexual abuse of minors by members of his diocese, the largest in Germany.

His decision has prompted a furious reaction from victims and growing criticism from outside and inside the church.

READ ALSO: Six things to know about Catholicism in Germany


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Mosques in Cologne to start broadcasting the call to prayer every Friday

The mayor of Cologne has announced a two-year pilot project that will allow mosques to broadcast the call to prayer on the Muslim day of rest each week.

Mosques in Cologne to start broadcasting the call to prayer every Friday
The DITIP mosque in Cologne. Photo: dpa | Henning Kaiser

Mosques in the city of the banks of the Rhine will be allowed to call worshippers to prayer on Fridays for five minutes between midday and 3pm.

“Many residents of Cologne are Muslims. In my view it is a mark of respect to allow the muezzin’s call,” city mayor Henriette Reker wrote on Twitter.

In Muslim-majority countries, a muezzin calls worshippers to prayer five times a day to remind people that one of the daily prayers is about to take place.

Traditionally the muezzins would call out from the minaret of the mosque but these days the call is generally broadcast over loudspeakers.

Cologne’s pilot project would permit such broadcasts to coincide with the main weekly prayer, which takes place on a Friday afternoon.

Reker pointed out that Christian calls to prayer were already a central feature of a city famous for its medieval cathedral.

“Whoever arrives at Cologne central station is welcomed by the cathedral and the sound of its church bells,” she said.

Reker said that the call of a muezzin filling the skies alongside church bells “shows that diversity is both appreciated and enacted in Cologne”.

Mosques that are interested in taking part will have to conform to guidelines on sound volume that are set depending on where the building is situated. Local residents will also be informed beforehand.

The pilot project has come in for criticism from some quarters.

Bild journalist Daniel Kremer said that several of the mosques in Cologne were financed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, “a man who opposes the liberal values of our democracy”, he said.

Kremer added that “it’s wrong to equate church bells with the call to prayer. The bells are a signal without words that also helps tell the time. But the muezzin calls out ‘Allah is great!’ and ‘I testify that there is no God but Allah.’ That is a big difference.”

Cologne is not the first city in North Rhine-Westphalia to allow mosques to broadcast the call to prayer.

In a region with a large Turkish immigrant community, mosques in Gelsenkirchen and Düren have been broadcasting the religious call since as long ago as the 1990s.

SEE ALSO: Imams ‘made in Germany’: country’s first Islamic training college opens its doors