"Make the organization less hierarchical"

Fanny Steyer

Journalist at RBB public television in Berlin

I have been a member of the Saint-Christophe parish for seven years, in the multicultural district of Neukölln in Berlin. It is run by a Pallotine priest and is known in the capital as very open, modern, committed to refugees. In France, I attended the Catholic parish of Saint-Ferdinand-des-Ternes in the 17e arrondissement of Paris, an enormous “machine”, very structured. Scouting accompanied my youth, I studied in Catholic establishments. When I arrived in Berlin, it took me a while to find a parish which corresponds to my current vision of my faith and which also suits my husband, German and of Protestant faith.

For two years, I was part of the parish council. The role of the laity is important and I have the impression that the organization is less hierarchical there than in France. The board is very mixed, with as many women as men, but all over the age of 50. The priest is quite open and asks our opinion on the organization of events such as the feast of St. Martin, actions during Lent. It should be remembered that we are sorely lacking priests here. Although we are in the capital, we are a minority, as Catholics. This is true throughout the eastern part of the country and is linked to recent German history. What a difference with Paris and the 17the district where everyone is Catholic and where everyone thinks more or less the same thing! Suddenly, it puts our ego back in place. I have thought about my faith a lot more since I came to Berlin. It is very enriching. It also pushes us to open up more, to be in dialogue with Protestants, to find practical solutions. For example, the priest of Saint-Christophe must manage three parishes and he delegates certain offices to the laity, and in particular to a woman, Lissy Eichert. She also belongs to the Pallotine community and gives homilies. She also does it regularly on Sundays on the public broadcaster ARD. I like it.

In Paris, I have never seen a woman give homilies. In Berlin too, this remains quite exceptional. My wish, however, is that this practice becomes the rule, that the laity manage the ceremonies more. We must adapt, be pragmatic in the face of the lack of priests. The Church has everything to gain by including the laity more, and especially women.

In Germany, a synodal path has been held for a year and a half, a dialogue between bishops and lay people. We have talked about it several times in the parish, but people are quite critical. They believe that this process of dialogue is not going far enough or fast enough. I know the transformation within the Church will take time, but sometimes I am a little discouraged.

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