Germany’s ecumenical assembly ends, but one bishop questions its benefits

Germany’s ecumenical assembly ends, but one bishop questions its benefits Bishop Gerhard Feige of Magdeburg, head of the German bishops' commission on ecumenism Photo: CNS

Some 400 people attended, Germany’s Third Ecumenical Convention in Frankfurt including German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, that concluded May 16, but Bishop Gerhard Feige of Magdeburg, head of the Catholic bishops’ commission on ecumenical relations, told the website that he could not see that the convention gave a particular boost to ecumenism.

In terms of language and visually, the meeting “largely took place in an internal Church bubble” and was thus unlikely to have reached nonbelievers or people who were distanced from the churches, the German Catholic news agency KNA said May 17, reporting on his remarks. “Nevertheless, I am impressed that the meeting could take place at all at this difficult time and apparently did reach a large number of people.”

The convention, or kirchentag, wrapped up three days of events in which approximately 160,000 people, mostly via video conferencing, participated in discussions, Bible readings, worship services and other events exploring theological and social issues. Protestants and Catholics called for the Church to work for justice in society and the Church.

Bishop Feige was critical of the “ecumenically sensitive services” that took place during the convention. He said the issue of shared Communion was “extremely complex and emotionally charged.” This made it all the more important to move forward carefully, he said.

KNA reported that at the convention’s four central services, it was left up to visitors’ consciences whether they wanted to participate in Communion or in the Lord’s Supper of the other denomination. At the Catholic service in Frankfurt cathedral, Bettina Limperg, Protestant president of the kirchentag, received Communion. Thomas Sternberg, Catholic president of the kirchentag, took part in the Lord’s Supper at the Protestant service.

Mr Sternberg said he had often taken part in the Lord’s Supper before, just that this was the first time he had done so publicly, KNA reported. To him, it was decisive that Christ himself had made the invitation, he said.

Ms Limperg said she felt no difference between the Lord’s Supper and the Eucharist.