God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Faith and Joy..

I think I would never have considered in my keenest dreams that I one day would sort of advertise a papal writing. Anyhow nobody would expect that from me, but this Apostolic Exhortation is worth being read by a lot of people. This document cannot be labeled progressive or conservative, it does not introduce new teachings, but it paves the way to get back to the roots of our faith. Believing should bring joy to life, it should give meaning to life, it should protect life… It should serve the purpose of experiencing the unconditional love of God in our daily life. Evangelii Gaudium shows what it could mean if the church just does that: proclaiming the joy of the good news. And it also has a meaning for those working in the fields of social injustice or health challenges; those working on the ground, work on grass-roots level. Because this message has practical means – faith is practical and must express itself in doing good and caring for those around us and in need of a holding or supporting hand.
But read for yourself:

Read it as a caregiver, a patient, a believer, a person searching, even as a non-believer I am sure you get some heart warming thoughts from it. And for those within the church: exciting times are ahead – not in the sense that liberalism or left-wing attitude wins over the other side of the spectrum. Once again: old labels don’t work with this pope, and this is good so.


Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

No step without “Limburg”

English: Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, Bishop ...

Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, Bishop of Limburg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Traveling in Europe, even on a complete different topic, seems in  these days impossible without being asked about the “blink bishop” – especially when you are a Catholic priest. And obviously the temptation is big then just to comment and say what has to be said and what everybody else in saying anyhow. For me there are several layers of problems and facts which has to be looked at. 

First of all I must say – despite all criticism I have towards the Bishop of Limburg I have to admit: on a human level I feel sorry for him. It is tough to be drawn down from where ever he thought he was standing into the realities of life and media. It’s really tough luck and it needs inner strength to survive such an onslaught.
The questions people raise – and I do too – are:  Can it be, that the responsible people of the Limburg Domkapitel pick a bishop only on the grounds of knowing some of his publications, as one can read as a justification for his election? Is the way, bishops are chosen without any involvement of the laity and councils really working in our days? Or is it time to change the regulations and look back how it was in the beginning of church life?


The system church with the strong role of a bishop and the system society with a strong yearning for transparency and democracy – how do we avoid in the future that church personal falls into that gap or trap?


Money matters need transparency – even for money outside the regular budgets. And even having councils to control – the causa Limburg shows that even matured people seemed to fail the test to stand up to a bishop if they feel he is acting wrong.


I am convinced that “Limburg” will be a turning point for many habits, the German Church has cultivated also through the concordance which was agreed about during a dark time of German politics. Times have changed and people have changed and it is our all task to learn out of it and try to develop a church which is transparent, when it comes to money matters, more open to changes in how decisions are made in many instances. “Limburg” is a wake up call we should hear as a church.
And I guess, the discussion has just begun.



Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, , , , , ,

Honesty and Trust are essential

English: Limburger Dom Limburg an der Lahn Deu...

Limburger Dom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am not sure who follows the story of the Roman-Catholic Bishop of Limburg, whose residence building rose from estimates 5.5 million Euro to over 31 million Euro and who is facing at the same time prosecution for a false affidavit. On the background of a humble Pope Francis, those matters are obviously seen more grave than they would have seen before and it is to wait and see how things develop. The bishop is now in Rome and I am sure the press will be eager to find out what is happening as we “speak” or communicate via this blog.
As my bishop Stephan Ackermann pointed out last night on German TV, without trust a bishop can’t work and it seems that this has gone lost in the diocese of Limburg / Germany. And obviously it goes without say that bishops have to stick to the truth, especially when giving an affidavit. Having a prosecution of a bishop for lying was unheard of in Germany till last week.
I think most Catholics and even non Catholics feel that spring has arrived again in our church and that perspectives have changed. And that attitude has to change also for those thinking till now that they are above the laity and ruling in the church, commonly labeled as serving. The church serves the spiritual needs of people, the church is obliged to proclaim the good news and the unconditional love of God and his option for the poor and marginalized in our society. Posh residences of those in charge of serving are contradicting this duty.

Obviously there is a wide span of opinions what the term “modest” living means and I think we have to be very careful not to judge too harshly when others have other opinions on this subject. So I am actually not interested what the heavily discussed price tag for the bathtub of the bishop of Limburg is. What I find utmost disturbing is the fact of non-transparency and as a member of his financial advisory board publicly claimed, that the bishop asked to conceal the real costs of the building for public consumption. I also don’t mind the bishop flying first class – of course it is a matter of discussion whether this is appropriate – what I really mind is when he claims publicly and on video record that he only flew business class when knowing better. If you don’t want to admit to something, then rather be silent.

From a human point of view I feel sorry for him – it is tough to suddenly stand more or less alone in front of the public eye and not being able to conceal the obvious weaknesses of an expensive taste and a very own way to see realities.  But if you chose to accept a very public role with lots of responsibilities in church and society, then one has to know that scrutiny will follow. And media can be unmerciful and not forgiving.

Whatever happens in the next day – lets hope that it brings an end to this rather sad story. Let’s see how Pope Francis handles this case of a bishop losing the trust of his clergy and the faithful.

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Not boring at all…

Who would have thought half a year ago that being a Catholic can bring so much excitement and development. And this until now without any change in substance of teaching. Who would have thought that a man from South America, not known to the public, which really had to goggle the name when announced on that very day of his election in spring this year, could turn the world upside down for many Catholics. A little bit scary for those on the conservative side and creating a new feeling of belonging again for those called more liberal.
First talk about mercy before you even touch on rules – mirror the unconditional love of God – don’t judge – see the signs of the times – transform you sermons into practical work going to serve the poor, the underdogs, those at the margins of society.

A pope, who recognizes that he himself is not without flaw, a pope who knows that he is standing in a row with all of us struggling to do the right thing in life. A pope who is not shy to speak his mind. And don’t worry, I am sure he certainly knows what he wants and there is certainly a sense for power and responsibility given to him through his election. The  decision to laicize Fr. Greg Reynolds in Australia shows that not all is hanging in the air and all rules are put aside. But what I love is that there is suddenly a difficulty to be “conservative” and “progressive” – the labeling seems not to fit anymore and fresh air is blowing the windows of the church wide open. The spirit of the II Vatican Council seems to have come back after a long and cold phase of perceived absence. What is scary is that those, who in the times of Benedict XVI called for penalties for those criticizing the pope now claim to have a right to take offense on what he is doing and preaching. And obviously it is scary to see how many in higher positions have changed tune over night. But maybe it is the spirit calling…

But on the positive side: this change of attitude allows again to think within the church, to feel part of the church, to enjoy being a Catholic priest. And for the work in the fields of HIV and AIDS it certainly opens the way to think again how to bring sciences and faith more together as two aspects on the path towards understanding God’s ways. No, it is not boring in our church and it feels good to know, that our church is progressing as God’s people in this world, bringing the gospel of God’s unconditional love through deeds of mercy and compassion into the hearts and minds of people.

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

Syria is on everybodies mind

English: View of the main (and oldest) buildin...

English: View of the main (and oldest) building of Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi or Monastery of Saint Moses the Abyssinian, Syria Français : Vue du bâtiment principal (et le plus ancien) du monastère de Mar Mousa, Syrie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nobody listening to the news can avoid being drawn into thoughts about Syria and the pending attack of US forces. History repeats itself – even if on a lighter scale as with Iraq. I am completely opposed to violence when it ignites more hate, more violence  and only serves the ego of US presidents or there-likes. “God’s own nation” is, like “God’s chosen people” again at the center of inflicting more pain to ordinary people instead of healing wounds. I am not naive and I don’t think that “always being nice and letting go” is the answer to all the injustice of this world. But if I can’t see any purpose for the good of the people, there can only be opposition.  I have been to Syria many times and always enjoyed the hospitality of these great people – they deserve better than what the world has to offer them in the moment. We humans have only the UN as an overwriting body – and yes, it is weak and full of failures, but this is the best we have in the moment and instead of ignoring it, we should better it. And for President Obama once again: Give back your Peace Nobel Price – you don’t deserve it.

Here the sermon of Pope Francis from yesterday,which says it all.

“’And God saw that it was good’. The biblical account of the beginning of the history of the world and of humanity speaks to us of a God who looks at creation, in a sense contemplating it, and declares: ‘it is good’. This, dear brothers and sisters, allows us to enter into God’s heart and, precisely from within him, to receive his message. We can ask ourselves: what does this message mean? What does it say to me, to you, to all of us?

“It says to us simply that this, our world, in the heart and mind of God, is the ‘house of harmony and peace’, and that it is the space in which everyone is able to find their proper place and feel ‘at home’, because it is ‘good’. All of creation forms a harmonious and good unity, but above all humanity, made in the image and likeness of God, is one family, in which relationships are marked by a true fraternity not only in words: the other person is a brother or sister to love, and our relationship with God, who is love, fidelity and goodness, mirrors every human relationship and brings harmony to the whole of creation. God’s world is a world where everyone feels responsible for the other, for the good of the other. This evening, in reflection, fasting and prayer, each of us deep down should ask ourselves: Is this really the world that I desire? Is this really the world that we all carry in our hearts? Is the world that we want really a world of harmony and peace, in ourselves, in our relations with others, in families, in cities, in and between nations? And does not true freedom mean choosing ways in this world that lead to the good of all and are guided by love?

“But then we wonder: Is this the world in which we are living? Creation retains its beauty which fills us with awe and it remains a good work. But there is also ‘violence, division, disagreement, war’. This occurs when man, the summit of creation, stops contemplating beauty and goodness, and withdraws into his own selfishness.

“When man thinks only of himself, of his own interests and places himself in the centre, when he permits himself to be captivated by the idols of dominion and power, when he puts himself in God’s place, then all relationships are broken and everything is ruined; then the door opens to violence, indifference, and conflict. This is precisely what the passage in the Book of Genesis seeks to teach us in the story of the Fall: man enters into conflict with himself, he realizes that he is naked and he hides himself because he is afraid, he is afraid of God’s glance; he accuses the woman, she who is flesh of his flesh; he breaks harmony with creation, he begins to raise his hand against his brother to kill him. Can we say that from harmony he passes to ‘disharmony’? Can we say this: that from harmony he passes to ‘disharmony’? No, there is no such thing as ‘disharmony’; there is either harmony or we fall into chaos, where there is violence, argument, conflict, fear.

“It is exactly in this chaos that God asks man’s conscience: “Where is Abel your brother?” and Cain responds: ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’. We too are asked this question, it would be good for us to ask ourselves as well: Am I really my brother’s keeper? Yes, you are your brother’s keeper! To be human means to care for one another! But when harmony is broken, a metamorphosis occurs: the brother who is to be cared for and loved becomes an adversary to fight, to kill. What violence occurs at that moment, how many conflicts, how many wars have marked our history! We need only look at the suffering of so many brothers and sisters. This is not a question of coincidence, but the truth: we bring about the rebirth of Cain in every act of violence and in every war. All of us! And even today we continue this history of conflict between brothers, even today we raise our hands against our brother. Even today, we let ourselves be guided by idols, by selfishness, by our own interests, and this attitude persists. We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. As if it were normal, we continue to sow destruction, pain, death! Violence and war lead only to death, they speak of death! Violence and war are the language of death!

“After the chaos of the Flood, when it stopped raining, a rainbow appeared and the dove returned with an olive branch. I think also of the olive tree which representatives of various religions planted in Plaza de Mayo, in Buenos Aires, in 2000, asking that there be no more chaos, asking that there be no more war, asking for peace.

“And at this point I ask myself: Is it possible to walk the path of pace? Can we get out of this spiral of sorrow and death? Can we learn once again to walk and live in the ways of peace? Invoking the help of God, under the maternal gaze of the Salus Populi Romani, Queen of Peace, I say: Yes, it is possible for everyone! From every corner of the world tonight, I would like to hear us cry out: Yes, it is possible for everyone! Or even better, I would like for each one of us, from the least to the greatest, including those called to govern nations, to respond: Yes, we want it! My Christian faith urges me to look to the Cross. How I wish that all men and women of good will would look to the Cross if only for a moment! There, we can see God’s reply: violence is not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language of death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken. This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions, and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: violence and war are never the way to peace! Let everyone be moved to look into the depths of his or her conscience and listen to that word which says: Leave behind the self-interest that hardens your heart, overcome the indifference that makes your heart insensitive towards others, conquer your deadly reasoning, and open yourself to dialogue and reconciliation. Look upon your brother’s sorrow – I think of the children, look upon these – look upon your brother’s  sorrow, and do not add to it, stay your hand, rebuild the harmony that has been shattered; and all this not by conflict but by encounter! May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity. Let the words of Pope Paul VI resound again: ‘No more one against the other, no more, never! … war never again, never again war!’. ‘Peace expresses itself only in peace, a peace which is not separate from the demands of justice but which is fostered by personal sacrifice, clemency, mercy and love’. Forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world! Let us pray for
reconciliation and peace, let us work for reconciliation and peace, and let us all become, in every place, men and women of reconciliation and peace! Amen”.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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