German bishops urged to promote sacraments during the Holy Year

Pope Francis has called on Germany’s bishops to use the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy to offer Catholics a chance to “rediscover the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist”.

During their ad limina visit to Rome, the bishops were handed an address from the Pope in which he noted a steep decline in sacramental participation among Germany’s Catholics.

“Whereas in the 1960’s the faithful almost everywhere attended Mass every Sunday, today it is often less than 10%,” he said, pointing out that “the Sacrament of Penance is often missing” and that “fewer and fewer Catholics receive the Sacrament of Confirmation or contract a Catholic marriage”. 

He also noted how vocations to priesthood and consecrated life have significantly declined in number. 

“Given these facts,” he said, “one can truly speak of an erosion of the Catholic faith in Germany.” The solution, he said, required a rejection of “paralysing resignation” and finding inspiration in the early Church. 

Pointing to the heroic example of “volunteers” like Priscilla and Aquila he warned against institutionalisation and trust in administrative structures, and called for more attention to Confession during the upcoming jubilee year.

Insisting that individual conversion and Church reform both begin with Confession, the Pontiff said that Confession highlights the intimate connection between the Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood. “If there is no priest, there is no Eucharist,” he said. 

In April the German hierarchy released the results of a survey which found that of 4,200 polled priests, 52% go to Confession at most once a year and 42% do not engage in personal prayer even daily.