‘Not grumpy, not dogmatic’
Cologne gets a new Catholic Archbishop, and he’s not hostile to homosexuals
THE Vatican has appointed the Archbishop of Berlin, seen by German media as part of a “new generation” of less dogmatic clergy, to take over the Cologne archdiocese, the largest and richest in Germany.
According to this report, the move makes Rainer Maria Woelki, (above) who turns 58 next month, one of the most influential Roman Catholic cardinals and is an indication of the type of person Pope Francis wants to see in prominent Church roles.
Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper called him:
The prototype of a new generation of bishops … not grumpy and dogmatic … these men speak of mercy and mean it. They’re open to people, even their critics, to a point and have a heart for the disadvantaged. Still, they’re theologically conservative.
Woelki is a Cologne native and served there for years under his retired predecessor, the staunchly conservative Cardinal Joachim Meisner, before becoming bishop of Berlin in 2011.
When his Berlin appointment was announced, some politicians and Catholics in Berlin said he was too conservative for a city with such a large gay community, pointing to comments he had made that homosexuality was against “the order of creation”.
They also noted that he did his doctorate in theology at a pontifical university in Rome run by the conservative Catholic movement Opus Dei.
But Woekli surprised Berliners by saying he respected all people and would gladly meet with gay activists.
A year later, in 2012, he said:
If two homosexuals take responsibility for each other, if they are loyal to each other over the long term, then one should see this in the same way as heterosexual relations.
Berlin’s Alliance against Homophobia nominated him for its Respect Prize that year, an honour he politely declined by saying it was normal for a Christian to respect all people so he should not receive an award for it.
In July 2013, the newly elected Pope Francis changed the tone of Vatican comments on homosexuality in comments on the plane returning from a visit to Brazil, saying
If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?
It remains to be seen whether Woelki’s appointment will bring disaffected German Catholics back into the fold. According to this report:
A full, 65 percent of German Catholics consider their Church less, or not at all, trustworthy.
A poll conducted by Forsa last years showed that there had been a significant increase in people filling out paperwork at town halls to leave both the Catholic and Evangelical churches between September and October.
The trend, experts said, was linked to the “bling Bishop” scandal, in which Catholic Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst was found to have spent millions of euros of church money on his own private house – including hundreds of thousands on cupboards alone.
Church officials called it the “Tebartz-effect”, with dioceses across the country reporting receiving letters from congregation members saying that they had lost faith in the Church’s handling of its finances.
When a person leaves the Church, they become exempt from church tax which is levied by the government.