05/31/2016, 16.57
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An Indian bishop attends Germany’s Katholikentag

by Nirmala Carvalho

The 100th edition of Germany’s Catholics Day was held between 25 and 29 May in Leipzig. Some 30,000 people took part in the event, plus 15,000 visitors. Only 4 per cent of the eastern German city is Catholic; 12 per cent is Protestant. The others are non-believers or indifferent. The gathering included well organised prayers, exhibits, discussions, and conferences.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Katholikentag (Catholics Day) "was a success. There were adults and children everywhere, no division between lay people and the Church hierarchy. We had music, debates, exhibitions, and prayers. It was a real spiritual feast that attracted Protestants and non-believers who participated with enthusiasm,” said Mgr Felix Machado, archbishop of Vasai.

The prelate, who also chairs the Office for Interreligious Dialogue of the Federation of Asian (Catholic) Bishops' Conferences (FABC), spoke to AsiaNews about his visit to Leipzig for this traditional gathering of German Catholics, which marked its 100th edition this year. During his stay, he spoke on “interreligious dialogue and mission of the Church".

"Here I felt at home,” Archbishop Machado said, “because I was one baptised person like anyone else. I felt strengthened and elevated in my faith. It was like feeling the pulse of the Church in Germany, a still very healthy Church, struggling towards perfection."

Catholics Day was actually held between 25 and 29 May, ending in a Eucharistic celebration led by Card Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Monaco and Freising and president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Germany (Deutsche Bischofskonferenz, DBK).

This year was the 100th edition of the biannual event, which alternates with the Protestant Kirchentag (Church Day). The first gathering was held in 1848 in Mainz, western Germany.

The Central Committee of German Catholics (Zentralkomitee der deutschen Katholiken, ZdK), a lay body, has organised the event since 1922 following a dispute between the cardinal of Munich and the mayor of Cologne.

The year “1968 was an important year, marked by student protests worldwide,” Mgr Machado said.  “The event took place in Essen and a huge number of students attended. They spoke directly to Church leaders. Since then, diocesan synods became common.”

Around 1990, after German unification, "the Catholic Church committed itself more forcefully to ecumenical dialogue and in 2003 there was the first joint Katholikentag and Kirchentag.”

Leipzig was chosen because “it was the historic bastion of the Protestant Reformation. From here, Martin Luther’s schism began”. For this reason, “the participation of so many faithful is important. Catholics represent 4 per cent of the population here. Protestants are 12 per cent. Some 83 per cent are non-believers or indifferent to religion.”

Katholikentag included meetings and debates in every corner of the city, Mgr Machado said, and “going from one venue to another was easy because participants had a pass that allowed them to take public transit. Everything was organised efficiently. Each conference had simultaneous translation. One could also choose from a long list of activities."

For the Indian prelate, the meetings "were an opportunity to learn about the Church from within. Cardinals, bishops, priests, religious, lay men and women, everyone worked, laughed, discussed and walked together. It was also impressive to see so many non-Catholics, Protestants or unbelievers, happy to participate. It was enlightening to witness the great love for the Catholic Church in Germany.”

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