First came Konstanz, then Heidelberg, followed by Kiel and several other cities throughout Germany. Everywhere the climate emergency was proclaimed; Everywhere, the concern of the citizens for the future of the planet has meant that in the future every local government decision must withstand a climate check. A start, after all, but the climate damage that the burning rainforest in the Amazon will cause, put everything in the shade. People are afraid. Existential fear. And the Catholic Church missed that now she was in demand. Maybe more than ever.
The Pope had presented so well when he published his then visionary environmental encyclical Laudato si four years ago. But the church is not heard in the wide-ranging discussion that has particularly affected young people with "Fridays for Future". And this with a worldwide relevant topic, where the church could score with its own content. Not to mention the pastoral mandate the church has when people are afraid - whether of migration or climate change.
Here and there the signs once looked promising. Just remember that Francis of all people made Lampedusa his first destination, to encourage the world to show more solidarity with the refugees stranded there. A pope of great gestures, it was said very soon, for which he received attention far beyond the church. The "laudato si", however, was probably less a gesture than a teacher's obligation. But four years later, when everyone is worried about the climate in the meantime, there is a lack of emphasis. Where is the strong Pope, who stayed on the ball during the migration question and washed his feet for a long time after Lampedusa?
"Gestures say more than images and words," said Francis three years ago. He is right, but why does not Francis travel to the Catholic diaspora in Greenland, on whose faster melting ice has never set a pope's feet? Just as he has emphasized the demand for solidarity with refugees with symbolic journeys, he must also travel to the foci of the earth for the sake of creation. Why does not the Pope, at this historic hour, when the Amazon Rainforest has gone up in flames, not rush to Brazil to read the Levites to the Catholic leader Bolsonaro? Of course, "the Amazon area, whose integrity is at risk", would soon be in the focus of the Roman synodal anyway, the Pope said recently concretely to the World Prayer Day for creation. But then just those Catholics who are also fully behind Laudato si , no impetus for a church rescue of the climate - but rather for a saving church reform.
This also applies to most Catholics in Germany, and here, too, the church leaders have missed their commitment in the climate debate. This also disappointed the local politics. For example, Schleswig-Holstein's Prime Minister Daniel Günther (CDU) has recently reminded the Catholic Church, of which he is a member, of their "deeply Christian" mission to protect the environment. In an interview with Christ & Welt , Günther explains: "In recent months, I have not perceived the Catholic Church as the driver it could be." Similarly, the former Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks (SPD): The Church must raise her voice "significantly louder," she says on request. "Specifically, the Catholic Church should make it clear to the citizens, whether they believe in God or not, that they have a responsibility and that they can live a good life, even with a different kind of consumption."
Just as Pope Francis had done in Laudato si, mind you, three years before, with Greta, a single girl without billions of successes could mobilize the masses for climate protection. In contrast, the Pope's green teaching mission seems to have remained more theoretical. The social ethicist Markus Vogt of the University of Munich sees himself confirmed at least in his approach that the Catholic social teaching with its three principles of personality, subsidiarity and solidarity since Laudato si to the "principle of sustainability" is richer. "But the encyclical received much more attention outside the church than inside the church," complains Vogt. The problem in Germany is a home-made one: "The bishops are self-employed or not competent."
The church gives away great potential. "Currently, environmental protection is a big topic," says a 24-year-old church exit will, who spoke in 2019 with a team of theologians in the archdiocese of Cologne, want to find out the reasons for the withdrawals there. "This topic could be well received by the church, not just sitting and praying in the church, but also opening up and orienting oneself towards what employs people."
In the meantime environmental officers meanwhile belong to the personal tableau of the local bishoprics; Church houses are switching to green electricity or renovating their facilities to make them more sustainable. Deutsche Hilfswerke supports projects abroad in Third World countries that are also good for the environment. And those who are particularly resourceful among the bishops can get an e-scooter and have it photographed for interested media, such as the Bamberger Archbishop Ludwig Schick.
And further? Only twice a year does a working group meet under the umbrella of the Commission for Social and Social Affairs of the German Bishops' Conference (DBK). "That's definitely not enough," says Markus Vogt. For him, institutional consequences would have to be produced, comparable to the aid agencies that, according to the then groundbreaking social encyclical Populorum progressio Paul VI. sprouted up in the 1960s. Instead, not even the chairman of the said DBK working group for "ecological questions", the auxiliary bishop of Münster, Rolf Lohmann, can be heard as a vocal voice of the church in the public climate debate; the Ecumenical Creation Day last week was just as unsuited to society as DBK's uninvited "Ecology and Sustainable Development Policy Recommendations" of November 2018. An ecclesiastical representative when Anne Will and Co. debated on lignite, glacial meltdown or Hambacher Forst - Nil.