Around 25,000 Catholics will gather in Stuttgart by Sunday. That’s a lot, but less than before, that the question arises: does Catholicism still have a future in Germany?

In the midst of a church crisis, the 102nd German Catholic Day will be continued in Stuttgart on Thursday. Among others, the chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Georg Bätzing, and SPD Secretary General Kevin Kühnert will discuss the topic “Who still needs the church?”.

The Catholic Day with 1500 events is taking place again for the first time in four years. However, far fewer participants than usual are expected by Sunday, around 25,000. Among them are 7,000 participants alone. 90,000 people came to the 2018 Catholic Day in Münster. One reason for the decline is likely to be the corona pandemic. However, the President of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), Irme Stetter-Karp, said the lower number of registrations also had to do with the fact that the Catholic Church was going through a “crisis situation”.

Former Bundestag President Norbert Lammert (CDU) pointed out on Wednesday evening that for the first time a majority of the German population is no longer a member of one of the two major churches. Many people left the church because they thought they could live their faith without it. Addressing the bishops’ conference chairman Bätzing, Lammert said: “You will not want to completely contradict my impression that, alongside those who have not had any ties to the institution of the church for a long time, those who have had such a tie are now increasingly leaving.”

Controversial pastor

On Wednesday evening, Bätzing defended the controversial promotion of a pastor who is said to have molested two women years earlier. The incident was many years ago and the priest had shown remorse and apologized, Bätzing told the German Press Agency. At the same time, he emphasized: “Any kind of harassment, of assault, both verbal and physical, is a no-go. And I don’t accept that in any way.”

Through the «Zeit» supplement «Christ

When asked why he promoted this pastor of all people, Bätzing replied: “Can I see a priest who made a mistake 15 years ago, which he recognizes, for which he shows remorse, for which he has apologized and a punishment paid – can I keep it indefinitely?” The highly popular pastor was nominated for the position of dean by the vast majority of pastors in his district. As bishop, he ultimately followed this vote. “It’s not a faux pas. Instead, I made this decision after considering the overall situation.”