(Maike Hickson, Life Site News – April 22, 2020) Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Cologne has given an interview to the German broadcaster ZDF, in which he now calls for a loosening of the restrictions on public Masses in Germany. He insists that access to a public Mass is a “fundamental right” that is “protected by the Constitution.”
Speaking to ZDF, the cardinal also stated that “we are not simply a cultural or an economical service,” but, rather that “it is about a fundamental right that is essential for our free society.”
Woelki – who is the successor of the now-deceased Cardinal Joachim Meisner in the Archdiocese of Cologne – stressed that in the recent days during this crisis, “many people reached out to us in a more intensified manner, asking for pastoral care.”
“This fundamental right, the state, the society has to demand – and also secure.”
Cardinal Woelki made these comments in the context of the current debate and negotiations between the Catholic Church in Germany and the state. The German bishops are planning to start public Masses again on April 30. The Diocese of Dresden-Meissen (which covers most of the federal state of Sachsen) has already started to reopen Masses for not more than 15 faithful at a time. Woelki, too, let it be known that his diocese is preparing for public Masses again, with due hygienical protective measures.
Cardinal Woelki further explained his position to the German Catholic newspaper Die Tagespost. “One the practical level, one has to add,” he stated, “that of course nobody believes that we will simply, from one day to another, return to the Masses as they were before the corona crisis.”
“Such return to normalcy is still far away,” he added. But he insists that one should allow certain Masses with hygienic measures.
Woelki’s statement comes at a time where one of his fellow German bishops, Bishop Gerhard Feige of Magdeburg, is calling those faithful who are asking for the Sacraments “whining,” and “belligerent.” He also asked: “And in the face of the hardships and suffering of those who have to fear for their own lives or the lives of relatives, who hardly see an economic perspective for themselves or who are professionally on the front lines in the fight against the pandemic, aren’t our cancellations of worship services almost luxury problems?” Instead of asking for the Sacraments one should rather show solidarity and not act like “lobbyists.”
This statement that has met with criticism comes at a time where in Germany’s neighboring country, Austria, young Catholics are pleading with their bishops “please, give us back Holy Mass.” Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s Chancellor, just announced that from May 15 on, public Masses may take place again.