Ecumenical News International

Bishops issue New Year warning against fear of the future

January 02, 2013

Frankfurt/Main (epd). In their New Year addresses, the two German mainline churches encouraged people to have confidence, to trust in God and to seek a new departure for society. We can always start over again and change the present, claimed Nikolaus Schneider, Chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). We do not need to be satisfied with everyday routine and the world as it is, he stressed. Schneider represents almost 24 million Protestants.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, Chair of the German Catholic Bishops' Conference, remarked that, despite their cares, people in Germany had every reason to be grateful for peace, freedom and security. "We can be grateful that Europe has not fallen apart, despite all the criticism and difficulties in the financial market crisis," he underlined on New Year's Eve in Freiburg Cathedral. Zollitsch represents 24.5 million Catholics.

In his New Year's Day sermon in Berlin Cathedral, Schneider encouraged his hearers not to fear the transience of life. It is finitude, in fact, that makes human happiness and human life on earth so precious, in his view. Everyone has had experiences of how things come to an end, are destroyed and lost forever. Nevertheless the turn of the year is a good opportunity to "look back in gratitude and look forward in confidence".

Bishop Jochen Bohl of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saxony challenged his hearers not just to live in the here and now. The "boundless sovereign debt" at the expense of future generations was evidence of the irresponsibility of our current life style, stated the deputy EKD Council Chair on New Year's Day in Dresden's Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche). "Acquiring affluence based on credit remains an illusion, and there is no such thing as limitless growth," he stressed, warning against "irresponsibly forgetting the future".

Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria came out against pessimism and fear of the future. The euro crisis had instilled in Germans a quasi collective fear of loss, he noted in his New Year's Day sermon in Munich. However, we often forget "how rich we are as a country". Consequently, he underlined Germany's ability to show solidarity and assist others.

The increasing social division is jeopardizing social peace, according to Berlin's Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki. "There are some winners but a growing host of losers," he said in his New Year's Eve sermon in Berlin's St Hedwig's Cathedral. "The gap between poor and rich is expanding and society could break apart one day," the cardinal warned, with reference to the social protests in several European crisis states.

The German-speaking churches in Europe have placed 2013 under a text from the New Testament: "For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come" (Hebrews 13:14). In the view of Hanover's Lutheran Bishop Ralf Meister, the biblical watchword for the New Year gives "orientation in the babble of voices of our age" and reminds people to remain seekers.

Hamburg's Bishop Kirsten Fehrs encouraged Christians to have more trust in God. God's friendliness reaches out into the darker sides of life, she said in her New Year sermon in St. Michael's, Hamburg's main church. Christians should not be content with the status quo, she emphasized.



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