A time to reflect




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A time to reflect


Turkey and the EU after Benedict XVI's apostolic journey

In relation to the recent apostolic journey of Benedict XVI we publish a comment written for SirEurope by Otmar Oehring, an expert on international affairs and in particular on Turkey, and head of the "Human Rights" section at Missio, the great German Catholic organization for missionary cooperation.


Contrary to what was feared, Benedict XVI's journey to Turkey has proved a great success: foreign commentators think so, with some surprise; the larger part of their Turkish colleagues also think so. The statements of the Vatican, and in particular those of the representatives of the Turkish Bishops' Conference, also suggest that the papal visit to Turkey really was a success. It cannot be denied that with his visit to Turkey, his visit to the President of the Turkish Office for Religious Affairs, Ali Bardakoglu, his address at the Nunciature in Ankara and lastly his visit to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, the Pope has made an important contribution to Islamic-Christian dialogue. Awaited by some in Turkey as a "crusader", the Pope, by his words and gestures, won over the hearts of a large part of the Turkish population. It is to be hoped that the effects of the Pope's visit to Turkey, in terms of sympathy for the Pope and for Christianity, will endure.

Turkey is in fact going through an important period in its history. In recent days the countries of the European Union reached an agreement to slow down the process of Turkey's membership. The 25 Foreign Ministers of the EU agreed partially to freeze the negotiations for Ankara's accession, as already recommended by the European Commission on 29 November: a form of pressure in response to Turkey's failure to open its ports and airports to merchandise from Cyprus. Even if in the last analysis it's only a partial "suspension", eight of the 35 chapters into which the negotiations are divided having in fact been suspended, it could lead to a deterioration of relations between the formally Christian states of the EU and Turkey. It cannot even be excluded that, in these terms, people in the country might begin once again to speak of Europe as a "Christian Club", which according to many Turks rejects Islamic Turkey for no other reason than the religious affiliation of the majority of its population.

Against this background, the announcement of Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone came as a pleasant surprise. He reported that, during a conversation with Turkish Vice-Premier Mehmet Ali Sahin, assent had been given to the establishment of a mixed workgroup with the task of discussing the problems of the Catholic Church in Turkey and formulating proposals for their solution. Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan had already agreed to the setting up of workgroups of this kind during a meeting with the Turkish Bishops' Conference held in the summer of 2004. It is to be hoped that the establishment of the workgroup now approved will be delayed no longer. Cardinal Bertone's further observation, expressing the Vatican's hope that Turkey would be able to satisfy the conditions for membership of the EU, also raises the hope that the Catholic representatives of this workgroup may seek solutions such as to achieve the objective of realizing full freedom of religion in Turkey, in conformity with article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights, while at the same time avoiding any such solutions being misunderstood as "separate peace deals" by the other Churches present in Turkey. If this were to be obtained, the Pope's visit would truly have a positive long-term effect both for Turkey and for the Churches present in Turkey.


Otmar Oehring, Germany


CHRISTMAS

United Kingdom: prayer and solidarity


Buying only religious Christmas cards, and boycotting those of a secular character, such as the Santa Claus stamps proposed by the Royal Mail, and collecting money and objects that could be useful for the hostel for the homeless run by the city council: these are just some of the ideas that the Catholic parish of St. Mary's in Loughborough, in the Midlands is proposing to its own faithful to make Christmas more ethical, and enrich it with religious significance. From late November, a stall at the entrance to the church has been selling 'fair trade' food and objects, religious cards and calendars for Advent on which children can open a window from the 1st December and read a scriptural passage linked to the Nativity. Some associations such as the Union of Catholic Mothers and the disabled group are organizing bring-and-buy sales of second-hand articles to self-finance their own activities. Since the beginning of November the parish has also participated in the 'Christmas Shoebox' project, organized by the Samaritans. Shoeboxes, personalized according to the age and sex of a child from a country in Eastern Europe, have been filled by families and parishioners with little gifts, coloured pencils, notebooks, hairgrips, sweets and confectionary. There are those who go even further, such as the Mercer family, who forego their Christmas lunch: Katie and Geoff, members of the Rosmini Order, renounce turkey and all the trimmings to donate the money thus saved to charity. The Davis family is doing likewise; here the Christmas gifts, all of them homemade, are only unwrapped after Mass. From the microcosm of St. Mary's to the rest of the United Kingdom, the concept of the ethical Christmas is only taking its first steps, while religious charities such as CAFOD, an agency under the auspices of the English Bishops' Conference, or its ecumenical colleague Christian Aid and other non-Church humanitarian organization such as Oxfam" and Save the Children are proposing alternative gifts in their Christmas catalogues, such as a goat, a course of studies, a well, and medicines for the destitute in Latin America, Africa and Asia. It is calculated that throughout the UK the 'ethical Christmas' raised over 360 million pounds in 2005, a third more than in the previous year. These are significant figures, but only a drop in the ocean compared with the 'consumer' Christmas that absorbs some 14.7 billion pounds, 21 billion euros.

Germany (1): solidarity with the unemployed


"Mutually supporting each other": that's the motto and aim of the evening being held at Herzogenrath (diocese of Aachen) on 21 December. It's an occasion for workers from local factories and unemployed in search of a job to meet together in front of the Christmas crib. The participants all support the projects run by the Nell-Breuning-Haus, where a job placement network has been established. The network is now in its second year, in the hope "that it may function, that we may find new companions through it, and that the spirit of Christmas may reach our firms and our families". "Christmas - explains the press release - is a time of transformation from the darkest gloom of resignation. The feast of nativity we celebrate today with cakes and vin brulé was a risk for the persecuted homeless couple Joseph and Mary. … But Christmas and the meeting in front of the crib can fill us with courage. Mary and Joseph found allies, friends, travelling companions, and the three wise men who came from the East and with them their way out of the crisis. Their son sought dialogue with the rich and with day workers and strove to ensure that both could become human persons". The press too is invited to the meeting, "so that the Good News may spread and the struggle for humanity in factories, in families and in the search for a job may reach as many people as possible in our region".

Germany (2): celebrating Christmas on the web


The preparation for Christmas in Germany is expressed by a wide variety of projects: from the more traditional, such as exhibitions of Christmas cribs, to the more innovative. On-line Advent calendars are proliferating (as in the dioceses of Paderborn and Dresden-Meissen). There is also an ecumenical version, and even an Advent podcasting set up by the Bavarian Church on the website http://www.adventsmomente.de. Apart from calendars, the young are being offered many Christmas texting services on cell phones and messages via e-mail with gospel passages and cues for reflection. Spiritual exercises for the laity in preparation for Christmas are also available on the Internet, such as those offered by the diocese of Mainz. Over 40,000 Christmas events, including church services, midnight masses, ecumenical events, and representations of the Nativity are listed on www.weihnachtsgottesdienste.de, organized by the Catholic Church and by the Evangelical Church. The listings service has been available on the website since 8 December. Its aim is to help "those who are spending the Christmas holidays with relations and friends or who go on holiday and may in this way inform themselves in advance about events being organized by local communities", explained Karsten Henning, delegate for the Media of the Secretariat of the German Bishops' Conference.


EUTHANASIA

Czech Republic: at the side of the terminally ill


"Cesta domů" (return home) is the name of an association of hospices run in the Czech Republic with the aim of improving assistance to the terminally ill, the dying and their families. Founded in 2001, the association consists of professionals in the healthcare sector and representatives of other professions, volunteers and personalities in Czech public life, all united in their effort to extend the practice of palliative treatment. "Cesta domů" operates in two complementary fields: on the one hand, the activity of domiciliary care for the terminally ill in Prague, thanks to which the association offers practical help to those who have decided to care for their own loved ones at home; on the other, the activity of raising awareness with the aim of introducing structural changes at the social and legislative level to obtain quality assistance for the terminally ill throughout the Czech Republic. The association is also responsible for the long-term project "Palliative treatment in the Czech Republic", aimed at developing and promoting a new concept of assistance for the dying and their families. To support the activities of the association, a fund-raising campaign is being held during Advent, until 21 December; Christmas gifts can be bought at the association's centre in Prague.

Austria: palliative treatment for everyone


Free palliative treatment for everyone: that is the call made by the head of Caritas in Vienna, Franz Zdrahal, during the recent Congress on palliative treatment held at the University of Salzburg. Zdrahal, who also fills the post of director of the team of mobile hospices run by Caritas, has warned of a two-tier society, which would inevitably be created if the principle of free palliative treatment to the dying were not to be put into practice. Zdrahal has identified as a further objective for the future "the integration of palliative medicine and the hospice principle in all sectors of the Austrian health system". "Realistic plans are needed - he said - aimed more at the needs of patients than at those of funding agencies". During the congress other questions connected with the therapy of pain and palliative treatment were tackled, including that of euthanasia. The Professor of Moral Theology and the Ethics of Medicine Günter Virt spoke of the dangers of going down this road: in Holland, he said, "the main arguments for the legal acceptance of active euthanasia are transparency of treatment and patient autonomy". However, "neither objective has been achieved. Many patients have been subjected to many forms of pressure, to force them to express the desire to rapidly put an end to their own life. Transparency too in lacking in the Netherlands", he declared, "since many physicians do not notify the interventions of euthanasia they have practised". In this context, Virt reported that each year some 1000 cases of not expressly desired euthanasia are registered: "The victims are persons who failed to understand or do not understand what it means to be killed". The theologian lastly hoped for a better definition of the "ethically significant" difference between killing practiced intentionally through a particular action on the one hand, and allowing a patient to die, on the other.


Italy: "neither over-treatment nor euthanasia"


"Normal and palliative forms of treatment are the alternatives to euthanasia and therapeutic over-treatment, because "they really place themselves at the service of the patient and of families", said Maria Luisa Di Pietro, president of the Association "Scienza & Vita" (Science & Life). She was reporting on the progress of the national campaign "Neither over-treatment, nor euthanasia" promoted in recent days by the association with the objective of "explaining the reasons for the rejection both of euthanasia and of therapeutic over-treatment, promoting access to palliative treatment and pain therapy" and "reviewing the aims of 'testaments of life' to ascertain their limitations and risks". "Suffering - said Di Pietro - is not to be combated by eliminating the suffering person, but by properly accompanying him/her". Di Pietro, a lecturer in bioethics, also explained that "it is society, and not the patient, that first gives rise to the need for euthanasia: it is society that first puts it into the patient's mouth". Palliative treatment, added Marco Maltoni, director of the palliative treatment department at the local health unit of Forlì, "responds to the concern to alleviate the pain, but also to be of help in all the psychological, social and existential aspects of the patient and his family. Those who confuse pain therapy and palliative treatment for the terminally ill with euthanasia - insisted the expert - manipulate the terms of the question with the aim of making people believe that so-called easy death is already being practised in a covert way today".


ECUMENISM AND DIALOGUE

Romania: an ecumenical impetus from Sibiu


"Sibiu 2007 will significantly help the progress of ecumenism", said the Romanian Orthodox theologian Viorel Ionita in an interview with the Austrian Catholic Kathpress agency. Some 2500 delegates from all the Christian Churches of Europe are expected to attend the Third European Ecumenical Assembly due to be held in Sibiu from 4 to 9 September 2007; the number of participants is almost triple that of the official delegates present at the previous meeting, held in Graz in 1997. According to Ionita, professor of Church history at the University of Bucharest and director of studies at the Conference of European Churches in Geneva, this will offer "greater chances to the Churches to be able to express their own needs". Unity, according to Ionito, will have "central importance" for the conference in Sibiu; and yet the "problem of the various concepts of unity" is one of the "main obstacles to ecumenical dialogue". "Considered realistically - admits the ecumenical expert - it will not be possible to solve all the questions at Sibiu. As regards the crucial question of the understanding of the Eucharist, there exist profound and far-reaching differences between the Churches". Ionita identified, however, the question of the mutual recognition of the rite of Baptism at the European level as a possible step towards greater unity, though pointing out that, in ecumenical efforts, "the new points in common formulated and exemplified in dialogue between theologians, or even between the Church leaders, hardly ever trickle down to the grassroots".

Austria: Islamic-Christian fellowship evening


A Christian-Islamic social meeting was held in recent days at the archbishop's palace in Vienna. At the invitation of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of the Austrian capital and president of the Austrian Bishops' Conference, the representatives of Islamic organizations and senior churchmen of the archdiocese met for an "evening of getting to know each other", organized by the new office of contact for Christian-Islamic dialogue of the archdiocese of Vienna. Representing the archdiocese at the meeting, apart from Cardinal Schönborn himself, were the deans of Vienna, the directors of the diocesan offices and the representatives of Catholic organizations. The Islamic participants included representatives of Turkish mosques and organizations, led by Turkish Ambassador Selim Yenel, and the chairman of the Islamic faith community Anas Schakfeh. The director of the archdiocesan office, Martin Rupprecht, declared that the invitation represented "a great step forward for relations between Christians and Muslims in Vienna". Rupprecht, active for many years in the field of interfaith dialogue, works in an area of the city inhabited by many Muslims of Turkish nationality and has already in the past organized meetings between parish priests and Muslim imams. Some contacts and meetings between Christian and Moslem families have also been held. What seems increasingly clear, he underlined, is the fact that "we know too little about each other".

Germany: safeguarding religious identity


A directive recently issued by Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, on multi-religious celebrations in schools, has aroused conflicting reactions in Germany. The directive, aimed at teachers of Catholic religion in the archdiocese, invites them not to participate in multi-faith celebrations held in schools since they are difficult for children to understand: "the image of God in non-Christian religions is not identical to that of God, Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ", explained the cardinal. "Therefore, common celebrations are not possible. Each community may as a consequence pray individually to its own God. If this happens at a community level, the other groups should watch in silence". "Since the faith of children and adolescents is not yet completely developed - explained Meisner - there is reason to fear that they may encounter difficulties in distinguishing ecumenical celebrations from Catholic or multi-faith celebrations". His directive has aroused negative criticisms right across the political spectrum. Of quite another view is Friedrich Weber, representative of the Lutheran Church of Braunschweig: "The directive specifies the limit that ought not to be transgressed to safeguard religious identity, in spite of the need for multi-religious integration in schools". Weber also stressed that the directive adopts "the same line" as that of the ten theses recently issued by the Council of the German Evangelical Church (EKD) on religious education in schools. Evangelical Eberhard Troeger, member of the workgroup for Islam of the German Evangelical Alliance, thinks that what Meisner said "is blindingly obvious": "the Biblical and Koranic understanding of God cannot be reconciled. That's why Christians and Muslims cannot celebrate in common. We need to avoid as far as possible what might resemble a mixture between religions", he concluded. The Forum of German Catholics and the German Bishops' Conference have also expressed their support for Meisner's directive.


TV WITHOUT FRONTIERS

In black and white


Some fundamental rights but no safeguards for religious convictions

On 13 December the European Parliament approved on its first reading the Proposal of the Commission for the revision of the Directive "Television without frontiers"(Twf) of Parliament and Council no. 89/552/Cee, updated by Directive no. 97/36/Ce. The revision of the Directive had become unavoidable in view of recent developments in digital communication that have multiplied television channels and made possible new media services similar to television for fast broadband Internet connections and wireless communications of the third generation.



PRINCIPLE OF COUNTRY OF ORIGIN. Audiovisual media services are at once cultural and economic properties. According to the TWF Directive, all transmissions that originate in the European Community must respect the regulations that the member state of origin applies to transmissions for the public within its territory. Member states must ensure their freedom of reception and not hinder their re-transmission on their own territory. Derogations to this principle can only be allowed in exceptional circumstances, as in the case of violation of the protection of the underage. Member states are encouraged to introduce systems of co-regulation and self-regulation. It is reaffirmed that pluralism of information is a fundamental principle. Member states are under an obligation to prevent monopoly positions.


ADVERTISING: MORE LIBERALIZATION. TV commercials must be clearly identifiable. The 20% ceiling per hour dedicated to commercials does not apply to telepromotions, telesales, sponsored programmes and, where applicable, product placements. Commercials and telesales promotions may be inserted only "between" programmes, but, on certain conditions, may also be inserted "in the course" of a programme, so long as its integrity be not prejudiced - taking into account the programme's natural intervals". The minimum interval between one commercial break and another in the transmissions of films made for television, cinematographic works, programmes for children and news programmes has been reduced to 30 minutes (from 45). Audiovisual commercial communications must not violate a series of rights, with the exception of religious convictions. The prohibition of "offending religious or political convictions" was removed from the original draft proposed by the Commission and the European Parliament has now made this decision legitimate by voting in its proposed revision of the Directive.


PROTECTION OF THE UNDERAGE REAFFIRMED. Member states will have to adopt a series of measures aimed at ensuring that the transmissions of media service providers subject to their jurisdiction "contain no programme that may gravely impair the physical, metal or moral development of minors", in particular programmes that contain pornographic scenes or senseless violence. They will also have to ensure that child pornography shall in no case be transmitted, "on pain of sanctions of administrative or penal type". The Commission and member states are invited to encourage the interested parties of the media industry to promote, as a further measure for the protection of the underage, a European system of identification, evaluation and filtering of contents. The need is stressed for education in the media, as also controls on programmes that contain senseless violence and pornography, also by verifying the technical and legal feasibility of a harmonized system of coding contents. Member states, moreover, should promote programmes suitable for children and capable of improving their knowledge of the means of communication.


RELIGION: THE WORD HAS BEEN AIRBRUSHED OUT. It is undoubtedly on the positive side that the protection of the underage and of human dignity has been reinforced in comparison with the initial text proposed by the Commission, which would have led to a watering down of these principles through repeals and amendments of the text of the existing directive. Even religious programmes, with the exception of religious celebrations, can now be interrupted by commercial breaks. The almost total disappearance of the word religion in the text is a matter for grave concern, in particular the approval of an amendment lifting the ban on commercials that offend religious convictions. The same ban, on the other hand, is reaffirmed for commercials that offend race, sexual orientation, or the protection of the environment. For these reasons it is indispensable that the European Council, which must now adopt the text approved by the EP, should reconfirm the ban on commercials that offend religious convictions, as expressed in the general guidelines on the Directive issued on 15 November.


EU

On the march with realism


Will the German Presidency (1st January) revive the constitutional process?

"Europe is on the march. This summit confirms that the Europe of results is not just an aspiration", declared MATTI VANHANEN, Finnish Prime Minister and current EU President on closing the Council of 14-15 December. He said he was "satisfied with the work performed together". Optimism forms part of the "liturgies" of the EU, justified from some points of view but certainly not shared by other protagonists at the summit. The summit in fact confirmed the "brake" on enlargement and deferred to the German Presidency, due to begin on 1st January, any new attempt to continue the constitutional process.


FURTHER ENLARGEMENTS POSTPONED SINE DIE. To understand the mood and aims of the recent meeting of heads of state and of government in Brussels, we need to consult both the final document of the Council and the declarations of the political leaders. The "Conclusions of the Presidency" (33-page document) begins by expressing "deep satisfaction for the accession of Bulgaria and Romania", which brings the number of EU members to 27, and completes the fifth EU enlargement begun in 2004 with the accession of 10 countries in South-East Europe (previous enlargements took place in 1973, 1981, 1986, 1995). It was just on the question of future enlargements that the most significant decisions of the summit were taken. It decided, that is, to pursue the negotiations with the candidate states, though postponing any new accession until the EU had found a better internal institutional balance. In the case of Turkey, moreover, 8 of the 35 dossiers necessary for membership were suspended: so Ankara's aspiration to join the 27 has suffered a setback.


NO DISCOUNTS FOR CANDIDATES. The Conclusions sanction the rule of the "3 C": the strategy of enlargement will henceforth be based on "consolidation, conditionality and communication", and "combined with the capacity of the EU to integrate new members". Candidate countries are requested full compliance with the Copenhagen Criteria. The need to explain to citizens the full significance and advantages of possible further enlargements is also reiterated. At the same time is it established that "the Union must be able effectively to function and develop" ("capacity for absorption"). Enlargement must not conflict with the overall process of integration. No discounts, or exemptions, will be granted to candidates; this was confirmed by French President JACQUES CHIRAC who explained, with regard to Turkey's membership bid: "I have always been in favour of the negotiations, even if I am aware they will be long and difficult and impose" on Ankara "major reforms in culture and in the overall situation of the country". At the same time, however, the Council has clearly spelt out that "the future of the Western Balkans is in the European Union".


CONSTITUTION ON HOLD. The other major theme on the agenda of the Council meeting held in the Justus Lipsius Building, at the heart of the European quarter of Brussels, was the Constitutional Treaty. To this point the Conclusions dedicate exactly nine lines. In the first seven any decision is deferred to the next semester of the European Council; the German Presidency is requested to report on the matter before the summit in June 2007. The last two lines of the paragraph state: "The European Council underlines the importance of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome with a view to confirming the values of the process of European integration". At the celebration, to be held in Berlin on 25 March, the Declaration on the Future of Europe will be signed: a document of good intentions to recall the half century of successes in the progress of the Community and to reaffirm its irreversibility in the global era. On this theme ANGELA MERKEL reflects: "Europeans would be committing an historic error were they not to find a compromise prior to the European elections in 2009", "preserving some essential points of the constitutional text".


MIGRATION, EXTERNAL POLICY. The heads of state and of government at the summit tackled many other questions. They reaffirmed "their commitment to the further development" of the area of liberty and security, in implementation of the programme of The Hague. They also acknowledged the "constant and growing expectations of citizens, who desire concrete results in such sectors as criminality and transnational terrorism, as well as migration". But beyond this minimum common denominator they do not go. The President of the Commission, JOSÉ MANUEL BARROSO, admits: "There is no agreement between states on the area of liberty and security". The Council also discussed innovation, energy and climate change. On migration policy an "extraordinary summit between the EU and Africa" was decided; it will be held in Lisbon in the second half of 2007. The final document also devotes ample coverage to external relations, with five declarations regarding the peace process in the Middle East, Lebanon, Iran, Afghanistan and "African questions".


REVIEW OF IDEAS

Theology in an atheist land


The last number of the German monthly "Herder Korrespondenz"

Eastern Germany is one of the most atheist regions in the world. Local institutes of Catholic theology are tying to come to terms with this situation, and concentrating on the fundamental questions of theology, as explained by EBERHARD TIEFENSEE in the monthly "Herder Korrespondenz" for November. His article is summarized here by Irene Vogt.


"A student from Leipzig, who had to apply for a residence permit in Zurich, aroused great astonishment when he replied with a simple 'none' to the question about his religious confession. It came as a surprise to him too". The anecdote, described by the sociologist of religions MONIKA WOHLRAB-SAHR, is cited by EBERHARD TIEFENSEE, professor of philosophy at the University of Erfurt, at the start of his analysis of theology in Eastern Germany. The episode epitomises for him the challenge that Catholic theology has to tackle in the 'new Länder': "that of beginning first of all a dialogue on God in an environment where most people have forgotten that they have forgotten God. The political change in 1989 ought to have been followed by a change at the religious level - a process that is still in course".

Since there does not seem to exist any religious feeling worth noting outside the Church in East Germany (East Germans don't even seem to be interested in the Dalai Lama), "the distinction between religious sentiment, Christianity and 'ecclesiality', necessary in other contexts, here seems obsolete". Therefore a sociological view of the church is being revived, although this is almost a mortal sin after the discovery of the invisible religion of THOMAS LUCKMANN. "In this context the Eastern part of Germany seems however an exception, due to the high percentage not only of those who profess themselves atheists (25%, cf. World Values Survey 1995-1997), but also of those who declare themselves 'undecided', 'indifferent', 'non-practising', etc. and who are drawing international attention".

A UNIQUE AND EXTRAORDINARY TASK. For decades experts had concentrated on questions in conflict with the Marxist-Leninist state doctrine not only in the Evangelical Church, but also in the "Philosophisch-Theologische Studium Erfurt", the seminary founded in 1952 and the only higher institute of Catholic theology in the former German Democratic Republic. Yet the theological faculties in East Germany had always been able to maintain close contacts with the Western world and, thanks to this, after 1989 succeeded in reaching the standard of Western Europe far faster than corresponding institutions in other states of Eastern Europe. Considering both the history of the Church and the current situation throughout the world, "the task of evangelising East Germany - says Tiefensee - is unique and extraordinary: never before has the Good News been brought to a population without any religion whatsoever. Especially in the Protestant Church (probably due to its past as a people's church) a decidedly missionary effort is encountered at the university level". Tiefensee then describes the three faculties of Catholic theology in East Germany: the major faculty at Erfurt and the two smaller ones at Dresden and Halle.



THREE PRIORITY ASPECTS. Three aspects of theological discourse, according to Tiefensee, should be underlined in the eastern region of Germany.

The request for "a concrete theology that enters actively into dialogue with the humanistic, cultural and social sciences". At Erfurt this need has given rise to the Interdisciplinary Forum of Religion, a platform of dialogue between university teachers and research students of various disciplines that "in one way or another have something to do with the theme of 'religion'".

"The concentration on central themes of religion". In the past (in the time of National Socialism and 'real' Socialism), the debates were influenced by a 'fortress' mentality. But now this impenetrability due to the physical mobility of members is disintegrating; this demands a focus on the questions of religion, spirituality and Christianity in general. "It is not enough to know Latin to make Charles learn this language; one ought first of all to know Charles" (Chesterton). In this way we wish to make the point that theological study must be formulated according to a particular cultural and social context. A project of cultural research, "a cultural turn of theology", is taking shape.

The re-interpretation of the diaspora. For long the Church in the diaspora seemed to be a "vanguard", an outlying post of the Church of the country of origin, on which it was also dependent. Now, however, "a constructively critical atmosphere dominates: the objective of mission - says JOACHIM WANKE using the metaphor of the sower of seed - seems to be the feast and not the harvest, which always remains insecure". The teaching abilities of the faculty are sorely put to the test, but the number of students is constantly growing. The first steps in a process adapted to the new religious situation have been taken.

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