1993 Nov 22 – Germany trip (Bulletin Letters)
Nov. 20 & 21 1993
Christ the King Sunday
Fr. Frank’s Germany Tour In Review
I’ve been back in the States two weeks, long enough to get over the seven hrs difference between Germany and Iowa. And long enough to get some perspective on my nine day seven city tour of Germany.
It was an ambitious agenda. Michael Porzgen, the former Des Moines Catholic Worker, organizer of my trip and main translator and myself spend a good deal of my nine days in Germany traveling by train, cross crossing the country.
I flew into Frankfort early Tuesday a.m. Oct. 26. From there we immediately drove to Nurnberg, than on to Edermannstadt for my first talk to Catholic Youth Ministers.
The next morning. Wen. Oct 27, we went back to Nurnberg for a meeting and talk at the offices of FBF, a local Non-violent Training Center.
The next day, Thurs. Oct 28 we took the train to Neuwied, where I talked at a local Catholic parish, sponsored by Eirene, an international Christian service for peace organization that places German volunteers in peace and justice projects in other countries.
From Neuwied we took the train on Fri. Oct. 29 to Lippinghousen. On the way to Lippinghousen, we took a two hour lay over in Cologne to visit their famous Cathedral. In Lippinghousen we spent the night at the Friedenskotten (The Peace Cottage), a Non-violent Training Center and Community that was started in the early 1970’s.
We left Lippinghousen in mid afternoon on Sat. Oct 30 and took the train to Dortmund, where we stayed with some of the Friends of the Catholic Worker Movement in Germany. These are folks who have been to the USA and have lived and worked at Catholic Worker communities.
The next morning, Sun. Oct. 31, we attended a Catholic Church service at the Dortmund city jail. I was privilege to give the homily. That afternoon I got to talk at the Cana C.W. Soup Kitchen. The first of its kind in Germany. My talk was their first official Round Table Discussion.
The next day, Mon. Nov. 1, we boarded a morning for Leipzig, the only East German city on our agenda. We arrived in the early evening, took a short tour of the down town area, attended the weekly Monday Night Prayer Services for Peace at now famous Nicoli Church. This is the Lutheran Church in which the uprising of 1989 was started, which brought down the communist government. We spent the night at Sr. Rita Kallbis’s in one of the class rooms of the House Church in which she lives. Sr. Rita is head of Caritas, the Catholic Social Service Organization in Leipzig.
The next morning, Tues. Nov. 2, I gave a talk to Social Workers at Caritas offices. We spent the afternoon visiting a major high rise, apartment district on the east side of town which house over 100,000 people, one fifth of the population. That night I talked at St. Michaels Lutheran Church.
Early in the morning on Wen. Nov. 3 at 12:45 a.m. we boarded a train for Hamburg. We arrived in Hamburg in time to sleep a couple hrs. before my talk to students at the Raches Haus School of Social Workers. We spent the afternoon touring the harbor area of Hamburg before we boarded a train from Frankfort and my last night in Germany. The next day I was on a plan headed for the States.
There is barely enough space in this bulletin letter to name the towns and places that I visited. There will be a longer article about my trip in the next via pacis, the news letter for the Des Moines Catholic Worker community. I will make the v.p. available to anyone interested when it comes out.
What struck me the most about Germany was the relationship between the Church and the State. The Church and the social welfare system in West Germany is very different than it is in the US. In West Germany the Government pays the clergy, operating and ministry cost for all the Churches. They do this through a national Church tax. The funds are equally divided by Catholic and Protestant Churches, based on the number of people who claim a church identification on their tax forms. Over 95% of West German’s claim a religious identification. Both Catholic and Protestant religion is taught in all schools.
The government also relies on Church agencies to do the bulk of official government social programs. Seventy % of all social workers work for a Church agency. The Church’s are the second highest employer in the nation behind the Government.
In many respects the Church in West Germany is looked upon as just another governmental agency. This makes the separation between Church and State difficult to practice. The Churches in Germany are far more conservative than in the US. And they are less likely to speak out prophetically against the State and the economic structural systems within the society.
The West German social welfare system is better than the one we have in the US. The holes in their social safety net are smaller than ours. There is more governmental help for needy in German. Still, their safety net holes are getting bigger. With the added strain of including East Germany into the national social welfare formula and with the global economic slump, less and less monies are available for traditional social programs. West Germany is beginning to lose many of the gains it once had in their social welfare programs.
The East German experience is vastly different than the West German experience. In the first place, far less people claim a religious identification. Less than ten % of East Germans claim to be Protestant and less than two % claim to be Catholic.
Under the Communist rule all social programs were run by the State. None of that exist today. The social infrastructure and welfare system in East Germany is in complete disarray. The limited Church structures in East Germany are trying to fill the gape. Still, their efforts are hardly sufficient.
Plus there is resentment in the East of the West just laying on top of them their own social and economic models of doing things. Little wonder, with so much unemployment in East Germany and the disarray of their governmental and social structures that there is so much unrest and violence taking place.
Though the Church in East Germany is much smaller than the Church in West Germany, I found the East German Church much more alive and vibrant, asking the important faith questions and siding with the most vulnerable in the society.
There is so much more I would like to share about my trip. Perhaps I will have other opportunities to tell you more about my travels and experiences in Germany. It was a very rich and broadening experience for me. I thank the parish community for their tolerance of such travels.