What happened if? This question moves book author Joachim Werz looking back at the Hofheimer Mess-Festival, at which 650 young people gathered in the St. Bonifatius Church in June 1971 for pop music and worship. The head of the research center "Order history since early modern times in the Diocese of Limburg" put forward the thesis on Wednesday evening at an event of Catholic adult education in the Hofheim town hall that the scandal reports that filled the gazettes for months would never have come about if the Event would have been held in the open air as planned: The Woodstock Festival was the model, he reported. Instead of using outdated songs, the organizers wanted to celebrate a service with four Christian pop bands that appealed to the young.But at that time Peter thwarted the bill.

Heike Lattka

Correspondent for the Rhein-Main-Zeitung for the Main-Taunus-Kreis.

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The festival was then relocated to the sacred space, in which the Hattersheim pastor Hans Milch, a traditionalist and later supporter of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who reneged from Rome, lurked.

With that the disaster took its course.

Because the stacked lemonade boxes at the altar, pop sounds, the bread basket passed around for the celebration of the Eucharist and sometimes smoking listeners were more than the diocese of Limburg in its entirety could bear.

That pastor Milch was particularly the unconventional youth pastor in the Main-Taunus district, Herbert Leuninger, a thorn in the side, as he dared to celebrate the change in his street suit. As contemporary witness and co-organizer Johannes Borgetto reported, during the Mass Festival, Milch sat with a pad on the wall in the back of the church and noted every alleged misconduct. According to Werz, he then "mutated" into an agitator who launched the pre-colored media coverage up to a major tabloid. Milch had blackened the pastor with Bishop Wilhelm Kempf and made the "Hofheimer scandal" and the alleged "desecration of the church" public with the Pope in Rome.

Werz, who traced the events around the Mass Festival in the 500-page book, describes Milch as "a pacifier who wanted to assert his truth about Catholicism and the Church with all his bandages". To this day, there has never been a comparable mass festival again, even if the event reached a number of young people at the time that pastors could only dream of today. The organizers and the participants had to let themselves be defamed as blasphemers and hippie people. “We just wanted to bring God into everyday life,” reported contemporary witness Armin Kopp. And Borgetto spoke of his experiences as a young man with liberal Catholicism in America, which had strongly influenced him.

More radical and more strongly influenced by the 1968 movement was the Catholic youth in Oberursel, reported Christoph Müllerleite, who is also responsible for the festival's only photo documents.

But even in Oberursel, the young people could not get their ideas through to the conservative parish council.

According to Müllerleite, the youth group broke up: "Some switched to the communist Spartakusbund, and the others went to the handball club," he reported.

Apparently young people who attended the Mess-Festival had to endure discrimination in everyday life in Hofheim afterwards.

Even at school, a then sixteen-year-old reported, she had to listen to teachers denounce her participation.

Hard consequences

The Hofheim experiment, which Bishop Kempf ultimately had to defend before the Pope, did not go well for Leuninger either: he lost his parish, moved to the episcopal ordinariate in Limburg, where he found a new calling as a co-founder of Pro Asyl in refugee aid .

However, Leuninger suffered from the loss of the parish until his death, his niece reported.

She wanted some kind of redress for her uncle.

But that will probably never happen.

For Werz, the Hofheimer Mess-Festival is a “forgotten place of remembrance, where the course was set for a conflict that continues to this day”.

However, even 50 years later, the chapter will not be shelved.

Rather, the contemporary witnesses are working on further documentation.

And a biography about the work of the charismatic pastor Leuninger is also overdue.

In contrast to milk, which was later even suspended by Bishop Kempf, Leuninger was highly valued for his work with refugees until his death last year.

Keywords: hans milch, scandal, witnesses, hawker, herbert leuninger, mess youth festival, youth mass festival, people, stir, waves, book, hofheimer mess-festival, hofheim, st. bonifatius church, limburg