The Ukraine war is a dominant theme of the Catholic Day in Stuttgart. The Russian attack has shaken long-held convictions, especially among peace-moving Christians.

Before the start of the Catholic Day in Stuttgart this Wednesday, the President of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), Irme Stetter-Karp, warned against neglecting development policy.

“We call for the development budget to be linked to defense spending in accordance with the coalition agreement and not to be cut,” Stetter-Karp told the German Press Agency. “The shocks in the food markets and the depressing news from Africa show how urgent this is.”

The Russian attack on Ukraine poses a special challenge, especially for Christians, said Stetter-Karp. In principle, following Jesus, Christians are committed to non-violence and peace. «At the same time, since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression, we cannot deny the Ukrainians their right to a sovereign state, to their integrity and to live in freedom. This leads to massive uncertainties in peace ethics.”

Federal President opens the Catholic Day

The ZdK is the organizer of the Catholic Day, which will be opened on Wednesday evening (6 p.m.) with Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. In view of the Ukraine war, the opening event is to be given the character of a peace rally. Another rally in solidarity with the people of Ukraine is planned for Friday, and on Saturday the group leader of the European People’s Party, Manfred Weber (CSU), and the political scientist and military expert Carlo Masala will discuss “Putin’s war of aggression and the consequences”.

The Catholic Day, which costs ten million euros, includes almost 1,500 events, including church services, podiums and workshops. Guests include Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Baden-Württemberg’s Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann (Greens), but also climate activist Luisa Neubauer and moderator Eckart von Hirschhausen.

Number of participants dropped drastically

In Stuttgart, less than a third of the number of participants at previous Catholic Days is expected. 90,000 people came to the last Catholic Day in Münster four years ago, now 20,000 to 30,000 are expected, mainly due to the corona pandemic. But the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church and the general alienation of many believers from the Church could also play a role. According to surveys, the Catholic Church has little respect among the population.

Together with the German Bishops’ Conference, the ZdK has initiated a reform process, the synodal path. In the course of this process, for example, the blessing of homosexual couples should be legitimized. “The synodal path is one of the most important topics of the Catholic Day,” said Stetter-Karp. «It would be fatal if we didn’t face the reform issues that are controversial within the church. And we know that time is of the essence.”