The place where the Catholic Church is challenged could hardly be more nondescript.

From the outside, the Maria Hilf church in Frankfurt is an unadorned concrete building from the 1950s.

Inside there are wooden benches around an altar in the middle, a good 20 men sit at a corona-compliant distance.

It is noticeable that besides the organist there is only one woman and no children.

But it is the altar that represents the provocation: wrapped in a rainbow flag, the symbol of the sexual minorities.

It is 6.30 p.m. on the first Sunday of the month, and the service for the “Gay and Catholic” project is scheduled at this time.

The group officially describes itself as a “project”, because even if it is referred to here as a congregation, it is not that in a canonical sense.

When homosexuality was still considered a disease

This year the congregation is celebrating its 30th anniversary. On April 7, 1991, it was White Sunday, when a handful of gay believers celebrated their first service in the chapel of the Catholic college community. The studied theologian Georg Trettin (transparency notice: employed at the FAZ at the time) had the idea, he found colleagues in two former fellow students. Already at Pentecost the initiative moved to the church Maria Hilf, where it was accepted by the congregation and was also allowed to use its rooms. She stayed there until today.

In other cities, in Munich or Münster or Stuttgart, similar communities were founded afterwards - the one in Frankfurt was the first of its kind in Germany. From then on, a gay Catholic service was celebrated once a week; today it takes place once a month. The fact that we are only talking about gay here corresponds to the facts: there were hardly any lesbians or transsexuals, around nine out of ten participants were gay men. They came from all over the area, from Darmstadt or Heidelberg, Mainz or Kassel; so reports a dissertation published in 2012 by the theologian Gregor Schorberger, who is himself a member of the congregation.

You have to acknowledge this achievement of founding such a congregation in the early 1990s - not just within the church, but in general. This happened at a time when the World Health Organization still included homosexuality in its classification of diseases - and when Section 175 StGB was still in force in Germany, which made sexual acts between men a punishable offense; Defused in 1969 and 1973, it was only deleted in 1994 without replacement. "Back then, homosexuality was something that was simply not talked about," says Thomas Pöschl.

Pöschl - 60, friendly eyes behind the red glasses, the beard more white than gray - is one of the active members of the community for the longest time.

He is sitting in the sacristy with a crucifix on the wall and a picture of the bishop as he tells his story.

He grew up in Fürth, Franconia, and going to church was part of his family on Sundays, as was lunch afterwards.

Nevertheless he was not a “hardcore Catholic”, he says, he did not go to May prayer, was not an acolyte.

The parents had paid attention to the necessary distance from the church, after all they had their own conflicts with her.

The father Catholic, the mother Protestant - in the sixties that was still offensive.

When the father went to mass on Sundays with his sons, the mother stayed at home and cooked.

Keywords: service, thomas pöschl.pöschl, gay and catholic, church, catholic church, place, gregor schorberger, maria hilf, homosexuality, altar, georg trettin, faith, germany, community, building