Ecumenical News International

Ambassador: Churches are important in Franco-German relations

May 17, 2013

Berlin (epd). Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, the French ambassador to Germany, has called on the churches to join in creating a "new dynamic" in Franco-German relations. The Luther decade leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation will give a boost to other initiatives, said the diplomat on Thursday at a discussion evening hosted by the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) in Berlin.

The speakers at the event in the French Cathedral in central Berlin (Friedrichstadt) recalled the signing of the Elysée treaty between Germany and France 50 years ago. Gourdault-Montagne also underlined the influence of the French Huguenots on regions such as Berlin. "In France we say: the best of us went to Prussia," the ambassador noted. The church known as the French Cathedral was built in the 18th century by Huguenots who had fled from France to escape persecution for their faith.

Martin Schindehütte, the bishop responsible for EKD ecumenical relations and ministries abroad, said that he still had strong memories of the signing of the friendship treaty between the two countries. The generation of his children and grandchildren did not have these memories, and it was fascinating to hear, "the stories they tell us to explain why they are committed to Europe", he said. He called for dialogue on how strong relations between France and Germany can benefit European integration as a whole. In any case, the churches should get involved, Schindehütte argued.

Ernst Burgbacher, parliamentary secretary in the federal German economics ministry, called on the younger generation to find new grounds to justify its relations with France. On the role of the churches in public debates, the liberal politician said that he did not agree with all their demands. However, compared to the complete separation of church and state in France, the churches' relations with the state in Germany are, in his view, beneficial. (epd)



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