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German cardinal says it’s ‘high time’ to restore public Masses

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne said that Masses with congregations should be permitted “as soon as possible” after German Chancellor Angela Merkel signaled that smaller shops and schools could reopen in the coming weeks.

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne, Germany, speaks in the cathedral in Cologne May 14, 2017. (CNS photo/Bernhard Raspels, KNA)

CNA Staff, Apr 17, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- A German cardinal has said it is “high time” to restore public liturgies as the country begins to ease lockdown measures.

Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne said that Masses with congregations should be permitted “as soon as possible” after German Chancellor Angela Merkel signaled that smaller shops and schools could reopen in the coming weeks.

Cardinal Woelki told CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, April 17: “Without throwing these rules overboard, it is high time to make public services possible again. I am not thinking of a return to normality as we knew it before the coronavirus crisis. Of course, it is much too early for that.”

“The hygiene regulations must continue to be adhered to, the distance rules and much more. We have all learned new things and will also practice them conscientiously. But services should now be permitted again as soon as possible within a precisely defined framework.”

On Thursday, April 16, the cardinal met with Armin Laschet, Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, the western German state in which Cologne is located.

Afterwards, he thanked Laschet via Twitter for his commitment to easing restrictions on public worship as quickly as possible.

While social distancing and other precautions were essential, the cardinal said that the practice of religion was a basic right.

“Therefore, religious services must be permitted under conditions, the earlier the better,” he wrote. “The longing of the people for pastoral care, orientation and worship is great right now.”

CNA Deutsch reported the Cologne archdiocese is drawing up plans to restore public Masses while observing health and safety guidelines.

Other German bishops have also called for the easing of restrictions, including Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops’ conference, and Bishop Gregor Maria Hanke of Eichstätt.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Woelki has written to children who were due to make their first Holy Communion. In the letter, dated April 19, he said that, while it was “a little sad” that first Holy Communion ceremonies had been canceled, the children had been given the “gift of time.”

“The whole hectic rush of preparing the festival is now gone for the time being and you’ve been given extra time to really understand what’s going to happen with your first Holy Communion,” he wrote.

When they did eventually receive the Eucharist, he said, they would never be alone again and would have everything they needed to be “infinitely happy.”

“What do you think,” he asked, “isn’t it worth it to wait a few more weeks longer?”

The cardinal’s comments were echoed by Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck. In a letter to first Holy Communion children in his diocese of Essen, the bishop noted that the youngsters would be saddened by the delay.

“I am very sorry about this and I am sad about it too,” he wrote.

He promised to pray for the children and encouraged them to pray for each other too.

“It would be a beautiful sign of the communion to which Jesus wants to bring us together,” he said.

Angela Merkel said April 15 that social distancing rules would remain in place until at least May 3. But smaller shops will be able to reopen from next week and schools will open their doors from May 4.

More than 139,000 people in Germany have tested positive for coronavirus. More than 139,000 people have contracted COVID-19 in Germany. Relative to other countries with a high number of cases, Germany has seen fewer deaths, though more than 4,000 have died as of April 17, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

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  1. I don’t think I have ever been more disappointed in Catholic leadership than I am right now, and their lack of defending the survival of our souls and their acceptance of “safety” at all costs. The Eucharist being the source and summit of our lives, has been kicked to the wayside. No brave leaders trying to fight for some small accommodation, but rather they retreated into the secular concerns of the world.

    • Nor I. For more than 30 years I have heard some say that our Christian leaders have lost their supernatural faith and that for the most part they are social workers in clerical garb. Whether denial of the sacraments to the faithful esp. the faithful dying or the recent remarks by Blaise Cardinal Cupich that we are far too intelligent to think this Covid19 can be prayed away is disappointing for what is left unsaid as well as the implication. Faith and Leadership are both MIA.

    • “Catholic leadership”, and I use the term lightly in view of their cowardly and shameful conduct, consists of pastors who are hirelings and shepherds who as Judases.

  2. In Germany that would be safe because I hear they only get a half-dozen people showing up for Mass anyway. There should easily be space for 10-20 meters social distancing for everyone there even in a modest church.

  3. The Mass is public by definition, theologically, canonically, historically, and spiritually. It always has been, and it always will be. There is no such thing as a “private Mass”. If you want to attend Mass, you have a canonical and theological right to do so— and “attend” means exactly what everyone has always known that it means, being physically rather than virtually present. Receiving the sacraments is likewise a right. if you want or need to receive them, they cannot be denied to you. True, if the virus really is causing significant problems in your region of the world, it’s only common sense to take appropriate precautions at church, such as sitting far apart; but in the nearly 2000-year history of the Catholic Church, no physical illness has ever theologically or canonically superseded the faithful’s spiritual well-being. Until now. Catholic cardinals, bishops, and priests have been involved in a massive sacramental abuse of the faithful by de facto annulling these rights as they pretend to be the regional and local managers of the state’s sanitary department. “Catholic leadership”, and I use the term lightly in view of such shameful conduct, consists of pastors who are hirelings and shepherds who as Judases.

  4. One sultion that we are following widely here in India is attending Mass remotely form Home via televission/internet etc. maintain the appropriate pious practices. This way we enhance the concent of the “Home Church” .. in fact we even practised foot washing during Maundy Thursday at our home as well as our Traditional “Pesaha Bread” ceremony derivied from Jewish roots. This, althouhg not same as the Eucharist, is observed solemnly on Maundy Thursday to commemorate the Passover and I recommend the Church could examine if Christians can follow a similar pactise during regular Mass attending remotely form home (with the instructions regarding due conditions/criteria to be observed regarding how this should be observed). This , although would not be equivalent to the “real presence” of Christ in the Eucharist, would at least serve as a symbol of the “commemorative meal” and could help/aid in recieving Christ spiritually.

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