In ecclesiastical life, Corona has made deficits and positives visible like a burning glass. One question arises for the Episcopal Conference: Have the churches failed in the crisis?
No public services at Easter. Groups of children, families and seniors who are no longer allowed to meet. Such a situation as after the lockdown in mid-March should not be repeated in the Catholic Church. The faithful, priests and bishops agree on this.
The church superiors reject the accusation, as the former Thuringian Prime Minister Christine Lieberknecht (CDU) has repeatedly put it, that the churches failed in the Corona crisis because they had left the dying alone.
Divine services continue to be streamed online
The chairman of the Catholic German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, recently defended the practice of stopping public services at the beginning of the crisis. It was also a matter of security. At the same time, he praised the creative ideas that have arisen in the congregations in the field of social work, but in relation to divine services.
Many congregations stream their celebrations on the Internet and have not stopped this service even when presence services were again possible in May. The pandemic has also led to a digitalization push in the ecclesiastical sector. Prayers and meetings are organized via the Internet as in professional life.
The Church adapts
Some pastors tend to follow traditional paths. This includes the Rev. Andreas Fuchs in Hadamar, a parish in the diocese of Limburg. He sat in front of his church for two hours a day for weeks and had conversations with passers-by, who could sit in a free chair next to him with due distance.
This is one of many new offerings that point in the direction that the Catholic Church in Germany has been following for many years and which Pope Francis always preaches.
Concern over upward trend in church exits remains
However, those responsible in the municipalities have also sometimes gone to the diving station, either out of convenience or because they felt overwhelmed with the situation. Corona also seemed like an accelerator in the negative.
In many congregations, fewer people have returned to the churches after the end of the lockdown than were there before. They continue to use the spiritual offerings on social media. Concerns have long been raised that Corona could accelerate the downward trend in worshippers and the upward trend in church exits.
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Bishops’ Conference must find an answer
When the Catholic bishops meet today for their autumn assembly, there is a great need for discussion. In addition to the questions of necessary reforms in the wake of the abuse scandal and the long-overdue re-regulation of the recognition of experienced suffering for those affected, it will also deal with the consequences of the Corona pandemic for church life.
The crisis has brought questions about the meaning of life and death, about social cohesion, into the spotlight. In recent months, the churches have had little media presence when it came to these issues.