Papal trip disappointing to German Protestants

September 23, 2011

Pope Benedict xvi's recent visit to Germany featured an ecumenical
worship service in the town of Erfurt that was meant to reach out to
German Protestants, but for many it felt like a missed opportunity.

his September 23 sermon, Benedict said that "there was some talk of an
'ecumenical gift' which was expected from this visit. . . . Here I would
only say that this reflects a political misreading of faith and of
ecumenism." The Christian faiths, he said, could not negotiate and
compromise as if they were political states.

"Faith is not
something we work out intellectually or negotiate between us," he said.
"It is the foundation for our lives. Unity grows not by the weighing of
benefits and drawbacks but only by entering ever more deeply into the
faith in our thoughts and in our lives."

Many were disappointed
there was no indication that the pope intended to relax a ban on
Catholics and Prot­estants taking communion together or recognize
Protestant denominations as "true churches" as opposed to "ecclesial

"I think we all had high expectations which weren't
met during his trip," said Tabea Doelker, a member of the  council of
the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) who attended the Erfurt service.
(The EKD is the German federation of Protestant churches.) "I don't
know if the pope, due to his age and fragility, will be able to carry
out the task of bringing Catholicism and Protestantism closer together,"
she said in an interview. Benedict is 84.

Although Benedict met
with Pro­t­estant leaders at the Augustinian Mon­astery where Protestant
Reformation pioneer Martin Luther studied, EKD presi­dent Nikolaus
Schneider said the encounter left hearts "burning for more." Schneider
described the meeting as a "very serious and deep fraternal encounter."