“A flair like at the world youth day”

The 31. German Protestant Kirchentag 2007 in Cologne draws nearer. The environment, justice and peace are the central themes of the meeting, which will take place from 6 to 9 May. to 10. June 2007 around 100.000 permanent participants are expected. On the program of the Kirchentag are 3.000 church services, discussions, work-shops, lectures, celebrations and Bible studies. They will be held at the fairgrounds and in the city center. Since there is only one Protestant church in the city center, many Catholic parishes also opened their houses of worship – including the cathedral.

As at previous Kirchentagen, an "Evening of Encounter" with music, candlelight and culinary delights is planned on the banks of the Rhine and on Cologne's bridges to kick off the event. The organizers expect 400.000 visitors. The Cologne motto is "Da simmer dabei" ("We'll be there"). The regional church is also planning its own center on the theme of love, as well as drop-in centers for children, young people and families at the Tanzbrunnen and in the city center. In a pavilion in front of the main train station, interested people can talk about their faith. The motto is "Telling about the open sky".

Preparations for closing service underway

The organizers of the Kirchentag are still fine-tuning an appropriate wording: when, at the closing service on 10. If all participants are invited to communion in Cologne on June 1, Catholics – who form the majority in the cathedral city – are not to be duped. But the Protestant understanding of the Lord's Supper, according to which every Christian is allowed to participate, President Schneider of the host Rhenish regional church does not want to give up. The leading theologian emphasizes that controversial ecumenical ies should not be left out of the Kirchentag.

"Great Ecumenical Enthusiasm."

Schneider knows that Catholics are prohibited from participating in Protestant communion under Catholic church law. But he says: "We are not the masters of the table, but Jesus Christ himself."The catholic church should respect this catching up. At the very least, the Protestant theologian would like to see more leeway for married couples of different denominations. The president does not seek a quarrel, but relies on a constructive ecumenical dialogue: The churches on the Rhine have rich experience with it. At the parish level, joint pastoral and social projects have been underway for decades. This is why the president of the Kirchentag, Reinhard Hoppner, has already noticed a "great ecumenical enthusiasm" in the preparations for the event.

Praise for the Catholic Church

The Catholic church shows much readiness to help, draws the former Prime Minister of Saxonia-Anhalt intermediate balance.Catholics participated in the planning of events, provided rooms and churches and hopefully also guest beds. "Because there are only two Protestant places of worship within the inner city ring, we may also use the large Romanesque churches," Hoppner said. "Cologne is much further ahead in this respect today than it was 40 years ago," judges the SPD politician, referring to 1965, the last time a church congress stayed in the city.The famous house of God will not be missing from the Kirchentag program: President Schneider and Cardinal Joachim Meisner will celebrate an ecumenical service there. This is what the archbishop had promised early in 2006. The Catholic head pastor also wants to hold a Bible study together with Schneider. However, it is not yet clear whether the presidium will accept the offer from Schneider and Meisner. The cathedral will be open until midnight every day so that people can pray there for as long as possible. The Protestants only want to make allowances for the traditional Corpus Christi procession.In addition to ecumenism, the Kirchentag will traditionally be a political event. The organizers want to have their say via live broadcast at the G8 summit, which is meeting at the same time in Heiligendamm on the Baltic Sea. "We want to draw attention to the increasing poverty caused by more and more environmental destruction," says President Schneider. Environment, justice and peace are central themes of the Christian meeting. A total of 3.000 worship services, discussions, workshops, lectures, celebrations and Bible studies planned. They will take place at the fairgrounds and in the city center.The host church – the second-largest in Germany, stretching from the Lower Rhine to the Saarland – is making the Kirchentag worth its while. With 6.1 million euros it takes over a third of the costs. The sum had been saved over several years, the praeses stressed. Further funds will be provided by the federal government, the state and the city. Sponsors have also been found.Hoppner, at any rate, would like the Kirchentag to have a "special flair" like that of the Catholic World Youth Day in the summer of 2005. A similar atmosphere could be created at the "Evening of Encounter" on the 6. June, to which 400.000 people are expected. According to the organizers, they will line the banks of the Rhine and bridges, enjoy music and culinary delights, and finally sink into a sea of candlelight. The Cologne motto: "We'll be there".The 31. German Protestant Kirchentag will be held from 6. up to 10. June organized in Cologne. This is the second time he has visited the cathedral city after 1965. The Kirchentag is financed to about one third from the contributions of the participants. The majority of the costs are shared by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the city of Cologne and the host Protestant Church in the Rhineland. The Kirchentag, as a Protestant lay movement, should, according to its basic order, "strengthen Christians in their faith, equip them for responsibility in the church, encourage them to witness in the world and remain with them in the fellowship of worldwide Christianity".

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