German Vaticanist speaks

Wlodzimierz Redzioch talks about Pope Benedict XVI to Paul Badde, German Vaticanist for Die Welt.

WLODZIMIERZ REDZIOCH: - Der Spiegel welcomed Benedict XVI by writing sarcastically that the Pope visits a 'non-Christian land'. How did it happen that German has been so deeply dechristianised?

PAUL BADDE: - One should not forget that in the last century Germany was governed by two regimes: the Nazi one and the Communist one, both were anti-Christian. Of course, that does not mean that we all have become 'pagans'. Der Spiegel is, however, right in certain sense since the process of dechristianisation of the society is advanced. The fact that the present Pope comes from the country where the Church is the minority is, in my opinion, a very important and meaningful matter.

- You have mentioned the anti-Christian Nazism and Communism. However, we should not forget that in the 19th century there was the politics of Kulturkampf in Germany...

- The anti-Catholic ideology did not begin in the 20th century, but it had appeared much earlier. In the 19th century it was the policy of Kulturkampf (in the times of Bismarck German Catholics were accused of obedience to 'foreign monarchy', the Roman pope), but actually anti-Catholicism began even earlier, along with the Protestant Reformation.

- Before the Pope's visit the majority of the German press was very critical towards Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church. Where does this hostility come from?

- In Germany anti-Catholicism was fashionable. Catholics lost courage, pride and awareness of their identity. They lived in silence on the margin of the society. The reactions of the press during the preparations for the papal visit confirmed again that it was anti-papal and anti-Catholic. Therefore, on the one hand, the Church hierarchy does not trust the media, but on the other hand, it does not know how to deal with them.

- Did the attitude of the press towards the Pope change during his visit?

- The situation during the visit reminded us of the situation in April when Benedict XVI was elected. The wonderful photos were in opposition to the hostile texts in the press and somehow they belied them. The photos were so meaningful and 'strong' that the readers could not become indifferent. And one more reflection. Luther was against holy pictures and that's why the Protestant Church in Germany has no tradition to use pictures. That attitude exerted a great influence on the Catholic Church. It has also been forgotten that sometimes pictures are more eloquent and meaningful than words.

- What are in your opinion the pastoral mistakes of the Catholic Church in Germany?

- The Catholic Church in Germany seemed to think that she had to compete with the Lutheran Church, which made her begin 'to Protestantised' in some sense. The Church focused on theology and thus became 'discussing' Church and not 'praying' Church. Consequently, the practice of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament actually disappeared. And so the motto of the Youth Day 'We have come to do him homage' was so important and meaningful.

- Can you foresee the consequences of Benedict XV's visit for the German Catholic Church and society?

- I hope that the World Youth Day in Cologne will be a turning point in the history of the German Church and society. It can be an occasion to new Christianisation of the society and culture as well as 'to regain' the lost citizen virtues (this is not a coincidence that Germans, departing from their faith, have lost citizen virtues). Germans were famous for great organisational skills. The World Youth Day in Cologne was prepared for eight years and in spite of that this meeting turned out a big 'disaster' as far as its organisation was concerned (Italians were able to organise the funeral of John Paul II in a few days and millions participated in that event).

-The director of the weekly Die Zeit said that the election of the German Pope meant a real end of World War II for the country. Do you agree with this opinion?

- After the election of Benedict XVI I had the impression that a new chapter in the history of my country began. Throughout the post-war period of 50 years Germany lived with hard past. It seems to me that from now on we can deal with the present and future. It does not only refer to politics but also to religion. Therefore, I think that in some sense this chapter has finished, this chapter, which began with the Reformation. Everything that the Protestants fought for in the beginning, was fulfilled during centuries by the Catholic Church. However, the painful and scandalous division has remained. I hope that the German Pope will decisively contribute to development of the dialogue with the Protestant Churches.

- Do you think that the visit of the Pope to his homeland will help Germans, and in some sense all Europeans, to discover their true identity?

- I will tell you about one event. 20 years ago I lectured on history in Frankfurt. One student, seeing a crucifix, asked me: 'Who is this INRI?' This episode is the best evidence how much dechristianised the German society is. The society, which badly needs a second 'education' as it was the case after World War II. Then, after years of totalitarianism, Germans had to 'be brought up' to democracy and Americans managed to do that - Germany is a solid democratic country. Today the aim of a new upbringing should be discovery of our Christian identity. I hope that Benedict XVI will do as much for German as John Paul II did for Poland. Like John Paul II helped Poles to get rid of communism, Benedict XVI will help Germans to get rid of the bonds of secularisation and consumerism. Germany is a big country in the middle of Europe and consequently, it has a considerable influence - good and bad - on the situation in the neighbouring countries and on the whole continent. Cardinal Meisner revealed that John Paul II chose Cologne as the venue of the World Youth Day because he thought that Germany that had done so much evil in the 20th century could, considering its wonderful past, make a positive contribution to the 21st century.
You speak about the necessity for discovering European identity. It is true but I am afraid that this is not going to be an easy task - too many influential groups (it is enough to follow what is going on in the European Parliament) are doing their best so that Europeans forget their Christian roots and live as if God did not exist.

- Thank you for the conversation.

"Niedziela" 44/2005

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: