"Freiburg", writes Hans Maier in an essay about the "coexistence of religions in Germany", first printed in 2014, "is certainly only one example for many." But one that the author knows particularly well.

He was born on June 18, 1931 in Freiburg, the university town of Baden, which has been the seat of a Catholic archbishop since 1827.

Patrick Bahners

Features correspondent in Cologne and responsible for “humanities”.

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    What Freiburg - the political scientist Maier states as a sober statistician: a "medium-sized city with 170,000 inhabitants" - is exemplary for Germany in the transition to the third millennium of the Christian era, Maier takes from a text of the genre "working text" entitled "Perceptions of the Christian Landscape in Freiburg and suggestions for ecumenical discussion "from 1999. The cadastre of the Christian lands in the shadow of the minster includes catholic, evangelical and orthodox churches," 21 free churches, 16 groups of the Pentecostal movement, 8 end-time congregations and 54 other groups ", including" sub-biblical " such as Mormons and the Grail Movement as well as conventicles of the educational religions theosophy and anthroposophy

    Loosening up has a long tradition

    Maier gains a global historical, in the social science sense, ecumenical lesson from the urban sociological inventory. The pluralization in the small corresponds to alignment in the large. The difference between the confessional pillars of the German model and the self-made church that caught the eye of European visitors like Tocqueville in America has leveled out. For the committed Catholic Maier, who was President of the Central Committee of German Catholics from 1976 to 1988, it is particularly important that the multiplication of external affiliations corresponds to an increase in internal group dynamics.The Freiburg Catholics are also divided into "many groups and subgroups - from a charismatic experiential Christianity to the tightly closed ranks of Catholic traditionalists".

    He does not have to say that Maier is not inclined to rank among the latter. If he looks at church history, he sees that loosening up is a tradition. This illustrates an apparent curiosity of the Upper Rhine religious landscape: "Even wandering bishops and presbyteri vagantes appear." Bishops without a bishopric were part of the Christianization of Europe in the early Middle Ages. From the point of view of the teaching profession, priests traveling around, who ignore the canonical principle of the stability of the place of work, endanger the parish structure of church life - a structure that the official church itself has long since undermined because it can no longer ensure the supply of the parishes with pastors. Maier does not explain the picturesque historical terms,but lets the vignette of the appearance of the clerical vagabonds speak for itself.

    Cheerful mind and restless mind

    The combination of the local and the universal historical perspective is characteristic of Maier's problem-historical considerations. If you read or hear Maier, you might believe that his temperament predestined him for the task of balancing things out, mediating between denominations or between the secular and religious world. But his cheerful disposition is combined with a restless mind, which shows itself precisely in his turning to the local. There are print locations or places on the bookshelf where calmer spirits would undevitably rush past. Maier really works with the "working text" from the Archbishop's Pastoral Office and finds in the piece of utility literature from the church bureaucratic permanent dialogue hints for his big question, what form a religious peace can have,which is still based on guarantees of state law, but is no longer negotiated at congresses of princes and cardinals, but in everyday life.