Friday, June 03, 2005
To His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI (Kimberley E. Koehler Freitag)
618 Yellowstone Drive
Elgin, IL 60123, U.S.A.
(847) 741-4162, email@example.com
May 2, 2005
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
Vatican City, Rome, Italy
Dear Holy Father,
I am writing to ask you to consider interceding with Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky, leader of the Berlin, Germany Archdiocese, regarding his decision to close and de-consecrate All Saints Catholic Community church in Berlin. I know that you are a busy man and may be loath to interfere in a decision of Cardinal Sterzinsky; however, I ask that you read the enclosed copy of my letter to Cardinal Sterzinsky and reflect in your heart on the ideas and sentiments expressed. If you deem them worthy of note, then you may wish to discuss this matter with Cardinal Sterzinsky.
I do not know what reasons the Cardinal has for his decision. I do know that mass attendance in Germany (and in all of Europe for that matter) is abysmal and that the only reason that Germany ranks second in contributions to the Church is because of Kirchensteuer, not because the church is vibrant and people are giving at Mass. Thus, it seems very strange that a church community which is thriving and serves a unique international population of Catholics would be slated for closure.
I also know that All Saints community was a home for me when I lived in Berlin and a critical factor in my current commitment to the Church. I believe that this church is serving as a lifeline for others in Berlin as well. Thank you, Holy Father, for your time and consideration of this matter. May the Holy Spirit guide you in your work as our shepherd.
Dienstag, 31. Mai 2005
"Alle Heiligen" wollen nicht mit Konservativen zusammengehen
Nach Briefen aus aller Welt will Erzbistum nachgeben
DAHLEM. Es sind rund 300 englischsprachige Katholiken, die dem Erzbistum Berlin große Sorgen machen. Seit Wochen wehrt sich die Gemeinde "All Saints" (Alle Heiligen) am Hüttenweg dagegen, ihre Kirche aufzugeben. Nach bisherigen Plänen sollen die Gläubigen Mitte Juni mit der Gemeinde St. Bernhard zusammengehen. In der einstigen Militärkirche dürften die Pfarrer Klaus Mertes und Ralf Klein dann nicht mehr die Eucharistie feiern.
Doch Gemeindevorstand Howard Eyth würde dem Erzbistum gar nicht die Schlüssel des Hauses herausgeben. "Wir werden geopfert", sagt Eyth empört. Dies sieht nach langem Gezerre das Erzbistum inzwischen wohl ähnlich. "Wenn der Schaden größer ist als der Nutzen, muss man neu nachdenken", sagt Bistumssprecher Stefan Förner. Es werde geprüft, ob eine für beide Seiten befriedigende Lösung möglich sei. Förner sagt aber zugleich, dass fremdsprachige Gemeinden wegen des Sparkurses nicht mehr - wie bisher - auf einen eigenen Standort beharren könnten. Ein Treffen am Freitag wurde vom Bistum aber wieder abgesagt.
"Es hat Briefe aus aller Welt an das Erzbistum gegeben", sagt Eyth. Militärs aus den USA oder in anderen Erdteilen stationierte US-Soldaten hätten wütende Protestschreiben geschickt. Viele von ihnen seien in der einstigen Militärkirche getauft worden oder hätten dort geheiratet. "Die Entscheidung von Kardinal Sterzinsky ist wegen des massiven Widerstands in Frage gestellt", sagt Eyth. Der Gemeindevorstand spricht von einem Willkürakt. Als eigenständiger Verein sei "All Saints" nämlich gar nicht abhängig vom Geld der Kirchenleitung. Auch die Pacht bezahle man selbst. Offenbar handele es sich um einen "Deal", weil sich die Katholiken von Bernhard nicht, wie beabsichtigt, mit der Gemeinde Rosenkranz vereinigen wollten. Bei einer solchen Verweigerung aber würde die Bischofskonferenz wiederum zugesagte Sanierungsbeiträge stoppen. Vor allem stört den engagierten Amerikaner, dass die zur Fusion vorgesehene Gemeinde als sehr konservativ gilt. Pfarrer Gillessen gestatte es weiblichen Ministranten nicht, am Altar mitzuwirken, bestätigt der Bistumssprecher. In einem Punkt gibt er Eyth Recht: "Es geht nicht ums Geld." Vielmehr könne ein Verein langfristig nicht als Gemeinde wirken. Dies widerspreche der Tradition.
Fremdsprachige katholische Gemeinden
All Saints Catholic Community (Alle Heiligen Katolishe Gemeinde)
To Cardinal Sterzinsky (Kimberley E. Koehler Freitag)
Kimberley E. Koehler Freitag
618 Yellowstone Drive, Elgin, IL 60123, U.S.A.
(847) 741-4162, firstname.lastname@example.org
May 2, 2005
Dear Cardinal Sterzinsky,
I am writing to express my deep sadness and concern with regard to your decision to close and de-consecrate All Saints Community Chapel (the former American Community Chapel, ACC) at Hüttenweg 46, in Berlin. I lived in Berlin with my husband, Bob, and our daughter, Caroline, from 1986 to 1988 and again from 1993 to 1996. We were employed by the John F. Kennedy German-American School in Zehlendorf and were integral members of the All Saints parish family.
Despite my efforts to learn German by taking classes at the “Hard Knocks” Schule in Nollendorf Platz and a college course in Berlin, my second language skills are very basic. When I attended church in German, for example, at St. Otto’s in Zehlendorf, I was largely lost as I could not understand the readings, homily, or participate in responses or songs. All I could do was to pray by myself silently in English and then go to Communion. Due to my limited language skills, I could not truly be a part of the worshipping community. Quite frankly, Cardinal Sterzinsky, it seemed pointless to go to mass when I was more of a spectator than a real parish member. I seriously considered simply joining the thousands of Catholics who have quit going to mass and left the Church. All of that changed when I was able to worship at All Saints, particularly when the chapel moved from the authority of the U.S. military to the Archdiocese of Berlin after the decommissioning of the Berlin Brigade and departure of U.S. forces from the city.
At All Saints my entire family became involved in parish life. Bob served as a lector and I as a Eucharistic Minister. Caroline, who was in elementary school at that time, handed out psalm books and worship materials as people entered the chapel. The three of us organized the parish’s hospitality activities after Mass. I also served as a member of the parish council. This type of family involvement in the church continued when we returned to the U.S. We are now involved in liturgical and marriage preparation ministry in our parish, St. Charles Borromeo in Hampshire, Illinois. We are active in Marriage Encounter and Cursillo, and Bob has served on our parish council and worked in Catholics Returning Home ministry to invite people estranged from the church back into the community. Thus, All Saints became a vital lifeline and instrument for me and my family not only to continue to engage in the Church but to become very active members and grow in our faith.
Let me share with you the type of genuine Christian community I experienced at All Saints Catholic Church. All Saints is a truly catholic – universal and international – community. Catholics from the entire world – British, Irish, Americans, Africans, Asians and English-speaking Germans – join together to praise, thank, and worship God and to share fellowship after Mass. People from all parts of the city come by car, bike, bus, or U-Bahn to be part of the All Saints community. All people are welcome, and we have the opportunity to bridge cultural gaps united by our faith. After Mass, we gather in the fellowship hall to enjoy refreshments and each other’s company. Conversations range from the light and personal – sharing stories of family and the events of the week – to serious discussions of faith and political matters from an international perspective. The “regulars”, that is, Berliners, both German and expatriate, are joined by visitors to the city, folks on business or vacation, who are eager to be part of the community, for a single Sunday, for a month, for a year, or for whatever their time in Berlin happens to be. Jesus’ command to go out to all nations and spread the Gospel is alive in the All Saints Catholic Community.
I do not know, dear Cardinal, if you have had the opportunity to live outside of your homeland. During my time abroad, I had many wonderful opportunities, yet I still experienced homesickness, culture shock, and deep feelings of being a “stranger in a strange land”. At times, I fear, I was starting to slip into depression. These feelings of alienation were mitigated by being able to join with other English-speaking Catholics in Berlin in a warm, welcoming, worship family at All Saints Church. All Saints Church was a place in which I felt accepted and at home. Not only was this parish community a place in which I could attend and participate in Mass, it was an environment in which my faith was strengthened and nurtured. Had it not been for All Saints, I might well have left the Church forever.
Whenever I talk to ex-Catholics, people who have dropped out of the Church, I hear the same theme couched in different stories. That theme is one of alienation. My husband, a psychologist by profession, always says, “The Catholic Church has the best theology but has bad psychology.” What he means is that people are turned off to the Church because of bad personal experiences, not because of some deep-seated disagreement with theology. Furthermore, theological correctness is not enough to keep people engaged in the Church. All Saints Catholic Community not only offers its members and visitors sound theology and worship but also good psychology, that is, a true community of love and welcoming that keep people engaged and committed to their faith and fellow Catholics. Please, Cardinal Sterzinsky, I respectfully ask – no, I beg – you to reconsider your decision and to allow All Saints Church to continue operating as the vibrant community and beacon of excellence in parish life that it is.
To Cardinal Sterzinsky (Hilary S. Krick)
Walberton, West Sussex, BN18 0PE, United Kingdom
14th May, 2005
Dear Cardinal Sterzinsky,
I am writing on behalf of my family to express our dismay at your decision to close down All Saints Catholic Community in Berlin.
This church clearly serves a wide international Community and is very well supported. In these times of declining congregations, it seems tragic to me to prevent people worshipping in a place steeped in history and heritage.
As friends of All Saints here in England, we urge you most strongly to consider your decision as nothing contributes more to strengthening international relations than a church with the proven track record of All Saints.
Hilary S. Krick
To Cardinal Sterzinsky (Mrs. Araceli C. Jimeno)
My family and I are former parishioners of All Saints Parish and for three years volunteered as greeters and altar servers. We left Berlin in August 2002 when my husband, Joselito Jimeno, Consul General of the Philippine Embassy, Berlin assumed his new assignment in New York.
We recall a closely-knit community in All Saints where a lot of us felt most at home. We are therefore saddened to learn that the Chapel will close down on June 23, and hope that this letter will help you to reconsider this decision. We believe that even if they worshipped in different locations, the English-speaking Catholics in Berlin could remain unified. There are other means to build unity among members as we all know. For example, celebrating special occasions together like Christmas, Easter, First Communion, Confirmation; or holding regular group interactions with the Pastors and religious leaders; even sharing newsletters. What is more desirable and definitely less drastic than closing down the chapel, is the unconditional involvement and encouragement of religious leaders.
Thank you, Your Eminence, for your time in reading our humble letter, and hope that you will heed the growing clamor to keep All Saints open.
Mrs. Araceli C. Jimeno
World Bank, 1818 H Street N.W.
Washington D.C. 20433, U.S.A.
To Cardinal Sterzinsky (Nancy Dravis)
114 WHEELWRIGHT FARM
COHASSET, MA 02025
May 17, 2005
His Eminence Georg Cardinal Sterzinsky
Recently I have learned of your decision to close and deconsecrate the Catholic Chapel in Hüttenweg. I became acquainted with this parish through my friendship with some of the communicants there. As a Roman Catholic who frequently traveled from home for extended periods of time it was most comforting to find a church in which to worship and where a stranger was welcomed.
The history of this parish is most extraordinary, spanning the years when Berlin was an occupied and divided city. The transition in the 1990s and the devotion of its members has been an inspiration to us all. Everyone is accepted; no small thing when one is far from home. The strong relationships, which the parishioners have forged among themselves, are heartwarming. The support and love which these people extend to one another is inspiring especially given the self-absorption so evident in today’s secular society.
As you can see from my address I live in a state, Massachusetts, where the church is in upheaval. More than 100 parishes have been closed causing much heartache to its members. “Sit-ins” are being conducted in many churches and, while I do not believe it will result in a reversal of the archdiocesan decision, it illustrates the strong feelings which the parishioners have when they are willing to keep vigil 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
I do not know the reasons for your decision since All Saints is a vibrant and active community, self-supporting and contributing to the archdiocese as well.
Europe has moved inexorably toward globalization. What is already in place at All Saints is a microcosm of the Church’s faithful. The members of All Saints will no doubt remain staunch in their faith no matter what you decide. They have reached out to many of us who have experienced the generosity to all who attend services. You have received many letters such as mine, some more eloquent but none more sincere. Our Church needs the diversity that All Saints offers. Everyone is accepted regardless of race or nationality. Do not disenfranchise these devoted people but rather permit them to continue their good work in Berlin.
I request a response to this letter at your earliest convenience. My prayers for you and all those at All Saints.
Our prayers with All Saints (Sulpicio and Priscila Confiado)
No. 8 Ilang-ilang Str, ph: (00-632) 842-5920
Tahanan Village office: (00-632) 736-3561
Thank you very much for the update. We will support you in whatever way we can. Our prayers for the Archdiocese to reconsider its decision.
To Cardinal Sterzinsky (The Mc Greal Family)
14195 Berlin May 22, 2005
Dear Cardinal Sterzinsky,
We were very disappointed to hear of the decision to close the All Saints Catholic Church in Hüttenweg. We have attended this church regularly for the last six years even though St. Bernard’s is our official parish church because our family has found our spiritual home there.
We have been informed that the reason why All Saints is being closed is to strengthen the Catholic English Speaking Community. In reality the closure of All Saints will have the direct opposite effect. The vast majority of current worshipers will not attend mass in St. Bernard’s as most people feel the mass offered there is a German mass translated into English. Some may switch to attending the mass celebrated by Fr. Penta, in Mitte while others will attend their local German church. We did attend St. Bernard’s during 2003-2004 while our son Jan was preparing for his first holy communion so we feel we know both churches quite well. At St. Bernard’s there is an English mass service but not an English Speaking Catholic Community like at All Saints.
The All Saint’s catholic community has a very definite identity; the music and hymns, the involvement of the laity, the participation of children (both boys and girls) in the mass are what make up this identity. The community is made up of people from all over the world and it is steadily growing despite not being able to offer the sacraments of Baptism, First Hoy Communion and Marriage. We feel if All Saint’s position were to be changed to offer these sacraments then it would grow even stronger and perhaps some people who switched to St. Bernard’s because of the lack of these sacraments would return.
Having spoken to many members of the All Saint’s community we can safely say that most of us find the closure of our community as being unjust and the stated reason of strengthening the English Speaking Catholic Community to be spurious. Our understanding is that All Saints is being sacrificed in order to keep St Bernard’s open. We don’t see any other plausible reason, as All Saints is a financially independent community, growing in strength and serving the needs of a large portion of the Berlin English Speaking Catholic Community.
We would therefore ask you to reconsider the decision to close the All Saints Catholic Church at Hüttenweg.
The Mc Greal Family
To Cardinal Sterzinsky (The Hansen-Waliszewski family)
I was quite disturbed by the English-speaking Catholic Mission’s article "Prayerful Places, Special Places” (May/June 2005).
Again, this article is an example of how little understanding and compassion the Mission and Archdiocese of Berlin have for the All Saints Catholic Community. There are two paragraphs that are particularly disturbing:
1. “We presently have no less than five celebrations of Holy Mass in English in Berlin every Sunday, though with the closure of All Saints in June, that number will be reduced to four. But for those who feel the need to experience the liturgy anew, what better way than to try out one of the other English language Masses.”
Many of us have in fact tried one of the other English language Masses and have returned to All Saints for a variety of reasons. Why attend another English language Mass “to experience the liturgy anew”, when, in fact, we experience the liturgy anew every Sunday at All Saints under Fr. Klein and Fr. Mertes? Obviously, no one from the Archdioceses or the Mission has attended Mass at All Saints.
2. “The closure of All Saints will be a wrench for those whom it has become their preferred place of worship. The deconsecrating of any Catholic church is a moment to mourn. But it also represents an opportunity ‑ the chance for those who favoured that church to become more fully integrated into Berlin’s Catholic life, and to experience anew the tremendous variety and vitality of the city’s Catholic service.”
There is a reason why All Saints is a “preferred place of worship” for many English-speaking Catholics in Berlin. Our members, who come from all corners of the world and socio-economic backgrounds, feel welcomed and accepted at All Saints. Families with young children and older children, particularly girls, are treated as equal participants at Mass.
Sunday Mass at All Saints is an example of the “tremendous variety and vitality of the city’s Catholic services.” If anyone would like to experience the "tremendous variety and vitality” of Berlin’s Catholic services, then they should attend All Saints on Sunday.
The All Saints community is successfully integrated “into Berlin’s Catholic life.” If the Mission really believes that the closure of All Saints is a chance for worshipers "to become more fully integrated into Berlin's Catholic life," then why not just close down the English-speaking Catholic Mission in Berlin?
The closure of All Saints is not only the “deconsecrating of any Catholic church”, but the destruction of a vibrant international Catholic community. And what does the Mission mean by stating that the closure of All Saints “also represents an opportunity?” An opportunity for whom, may I ask?
The arguments the Archdiocese has given to close down All Saints are weak and without substance. The thought of All Saints closure is “a wrench for those for whom it has become their preferred place of worship.” But more wrenching is the thought that All Saints, a growing and integrated multicultural Catholic community, is being sacrificed for political reasons.
Please follow your conscience and save All Saints Catholic Community!
The Hansen-Waliszewski family (Vanessa, Matthias, Niels, Julia and Josephine)
Osthofenerweg 28, 14129 Berlin
To Cardinal Sterzinsky (Daniel Liderbach, S. J.)
Last year we met in Berlin. I was the priest who was celebrating the Eucharist at All Saints community.
The All Saints community has informed me that you intend to close that community.
This letter is a request that you consider that the All Saints community desires to continue celebrating the Eucharist together. If they are no longer able to celebrate the Eucharist together, they might perhaps find that they are distanced from other communities.
They are indeed humans. They are not saints. Therefore I ask you to consider allowing the All Saints community to continue.
There for you,
Daniel Liderbach, S. J.
Canisius College, Loyola Hall,
Buffalo, N.Y., U.S.A.
To Cardinal Sterzinsky (John C. Wall)
Dear Georg Kardinal Sterzinsky,
It has sadly come to my notice, through my German/Hungarian friends, that it is your intention to close down ALL SAINTS CHURCH with its very vibrant English Speaking Community in Hüttenweg, in Berlin.
This has come as a very severe blow to their congregation and also to me, as I am sure that you must know that the members of the church have worked so hard to make themselves financially independent as well as funding the Diocese. They have also extended their love of the Lord Jesus Christ to help those that in many ways are in need of loving help.
As I speak no German I have had, over the years, always received a very warm welcome at ALL SAINTS and I hope that in my small way have helped to foster the Church’s presence in Hüttenweg.
May I respectfully suggest, Kardinal Sterzinsky, that you have no “GOD GIVEN RIGHT” to close down ALL SAINTS CHURCH which, over many years, has been serving the local community in such an excellent manner in promoting the Gospel of our LORD JESUS CHRIST in HÜTTENWEG.
My prayer is that Almighty God will give you grace to reconsider your “options” in your Diocese and not close what is GOD’S House in HÜTTENWEG.
May I look forward to your reply, that with GOD’S grace, you will be able to revise your plans and keep ALL SAINTS open.
Yours in Fellowship with our Lord
John C. Wall
285 Greene Lane
Coventry CV3 6EH
To Cardinal Sterzinsky (Heide Doblhofer)
dear Cardinal Sterzinsky,
Since 1972, after five years in the US, the Catholic Community on Hüttenweg has been my spiritual home. From the very beginning, I was impressed by the welcome extended to newcomers how fast they engaged themselves in the community. That was the basis for my own engagement here at All Saints, in the choir, as treasurer etc. I come with joy to the Sunday Mass at All Saints, and I miss it when I am not in Berlin.
Especially, I like the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. It is for me a place where I feel the presence of our Lord in a special way. Over the years, I have taken part much more than a thousand times in weekday masses in this chapel, and until now I like to pray in the intimacy of this room. To deconsecrate this chapel would make me feel like Good Friday without the hope for Easter Sunday.
Please, your Eminence, do not destroy and disseminate our Catholic Community, but allow us to continue to serve our Lord and God in this place.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Excerpts from Fr. Mertes’ sermon
April 17, 2005
Sheep offer their shepherd something very essential: trust. Trust is the most precious gift that is provided in the asymmetrical relationship between sheep and shepherd. The shepherd can only have one answer to that: assume responsibility. The stronger the relationship, the less the shepherd can give up his responsibility. The responsibility “from above” is not bound to the trust “from below”. The sheep recognize the good shepherd simply because of his unconditional good will and his readiness to assume responsibility for them: they recognize “the voice” of the good shepherd. In the voice of the bad shepherd there is always some self interest, some condition, a back door through which one can flee from responsibility. Therefore it is legitimate to say that bad shepherds are “thieves and robbers”: they want something from the sheep for themselves. They have their own interest (and usually hide it). The motive of self interest is the basic sin of the bad shepherd. Bad shepherds are afraid of the sheep, in particular, of the strong sheep and this is why they mistreat them and finally disperse the flock.
To Cardinal Sterzinsky (The All Saints Catholic Community)
Kardinal Georg Sterzinsky
Berlin, April 14, 2005
Erzbischöfliches Ordinariat, Postfach 040856, 10064 Berlin
His Eminence Cardinal Sterzinsky,
We are deeply saddened by your decision to close down All Saints on June 23, 2005 and to deconsecrate the Catholic Chapel, which seems to us to be incomprehensible and unjust.
Under the leadership of the Jesuit fathers Klaus Mertes and Ralf Klein we have become a viable, lively and growing Catholic Community with members of all ages from Europe, America, Africa and Asia who have found their spiritual home in All Saints and feel welcome and accepted here. Approximately 150 people attend Sunday mass regularly, and prior to mass a small group gathers in the Chapel to pray the Rosary. All tasks for lay people that have to do with the preparation and celebration of Holy Mass are done voluntarily by members of the community, for example, musicians, greeters etc. The Friends of All Saints Association, which is supported by the members of the Catholic Community, also has been able to provide for all costs for All Saints and the community center for more than one year now. Moreover, the All Saints Community has continued to transfer the designated collections to the Archdiocese. At the same time we have even been able to increase our financial reserves.
In a time in which the Catholic Church has been facing a significant decrease in its membership and many churches have been compelled to close down for personal and financial reasons, we believe that our community could serve as a future oriented, sound, workable model for other communities.In light of the above, we hereby ask for permission to continue to celebrate Holy Mass at Hüttenweg 46. We would also ask permission to have the sacraments of baptism, first communion, confirmation and marriage administered at All Saints, because a growing number of community members have asked for it.
Please open your heart and strengthen our lively community in faith which has grown here and is rooted at All Saints!
The All Saints Catholic Community
To Cardinal Sterzinsky (Friends of All Saints)
Berlin, April 25, 2005
Dear Cardinal Sterzinsky,
Your decision to close down the All Saints Catholic Community by June 23, 2005 fills the members of the association "Friends of All Saints" with great sorrow. The Friends Association, formed exclusively by members of the Catholic Community of All Saints, is committed to "conserve the former American Community Chapel as an ecumenical community center for the furtherance of English speaking social, cultural and religious activities". Our main interest of course is to support the continuing presence of the Catholic Community. The church has been used since 1957 in an ecumenical way by the Jewish and various Christian Communities, where the Catholic Community because of its large membership played a prominent role both in the use of time and space. When the American troops left in 1994, we continued this heritage with your great support, your Eminence.For one community alone the costs for rent and upkeep of the facility, now about 60000 Euro per year, are too high. The Friends Association has therefore looked for partners in using the building. They are, since 1994 the "Protestant Faith Fellowship", since 1999 the English speaking Montessori Kindergarden, since 2003 the Jewish Community "Sukkat Shalom", and since 2004 the "Crossway International Baptist Church". Through their rental payments to the Friends Association they make it possible that the Association bears all costs, with, of course, the Catholic Community of All Saints contributing an important share by their donations to the Friends Association.
In addition to the financial responsibility and the technical care for the facility, the Friends Association coordinates the common use by the different groups and religious communities by planning with them the schedule for the use of the building. This cooperation functions well and in harmony, without the Association influencing the content of the work of the different groups. The existence of a Catholic Community on Hüttenweg as the basis for the Friends of All Saints is therefore existentially important for the life of this ecumenical center. At a time, when Pope Benedict XVI makes ecumenical work his special concern, it would be extremely regrettable if the Catholic Church pulled out of this concrete, well functioning cooperation, and it would harm its image. We ask you therefore to allow the Catholic Community of All Saints under the leadership of Father Klaus Mertes SJ and Father Ralf Klein SJ to continue its presence here.
The executive committee of the "Friends of All Saints": Dr. Howard Eyth, Michael D. Hoth, Lupita Wilhelm, Heide Doblhofer
To Cardinal Sterzinsky (Aicel Soler-Ortiz)
I recently heard that the church All Saints Catholic Community in which my religious foundation began was going to be closed soon. I was deeply affected to hear this disturbing news. I was part of the congregations when my father was stationed there in Berlin in 1984 until 1990. This is the same place that I was in Sunday school, did my first communion, was an altarserver, and went on a number of retreats. Not to mention the fact that I met wonderful people that I could cement a connection with through our faith and which I am in contact with to this day.
As an Army brat having to move around it is where I most remember being part of a true community. I look back on those times as the moment in which I established who I would become spiritually and as a person. Those moments help me to grow from child, to adolescent and now into adult. I am a 24-year old Puerto Rican woman who is now married and I had hoped that I would be able to share this experience with my husband and future family by visiting the church, which would impossible if it were to be closed down. I desperately ask that you reconsider the closing for All Saints Catholic Community church. It would be a great loss for me personally and for the current members to which I consider myself still to be a part of .
P.S. A copy of this letter will be sent to former members and friends of our now worldwide existing community.
Monday, May 23, 2005
To Cardinal Sterzinsky (The Rückeis Family)
16 April 2005
We were very astonished and upset to hear that the Catholic Church is planning to close down our parish All Saints at Hüttenweg in Berlin and to deconsecrate the building. Our parish is one full of young people, one that is growing and one which sees itself as one great big family. One year ago we were told that the diocese was not able to support us financially anymore. We were also told, if I understood correctly, that we could belong to the diocese again if we could show that we could financially support ourselves for an entire year. We did indeed manage to show that we can financially support ourselves without help from the diocese. But instead of keeping its promise, the Church has done the exact opposite, in forbidding us to hold a Mass in our church. Why? This action gives one the impression that someone is jealous that we can financially support ourselves when the church takes its monetary support away, and not only that, but that we also continue to grow. There are several reasons why our family is not prepared to belong to the congregation at St. Bernhardt’s. The main reason is, that girls are not allowed to be altar servers. My young daughter decided all on her own that she very much wanted to be an altar server. The idea had never even occurred to me. Of course, a mother is extremely glad to hear such a wish. One has the feeling that Jesus has called one’s own child. Since then she has completed the training and has been an enthusiastic altar server for a quarter of a year. I know that my daughter would not be allowed to continue this service at St. Bernhardt’s. How is one supposed to explain to a child, that she cannot serve her Lord anymore in this manner, only because she is a girl??? It makes me ask myself which century we are living in! Would Jesus plant such a seed --a desire to serve him in this way—in her, only to stamp it out later? I do not believe in such a Jesus.Secondly, we do not find the service at St. Bernhardt’s very child-friendly. The homilies Fr. Gilleson gives are not comprehensible at all for children. At All Saints the homilies are easier to understand and have more applications to everyday life. There is also no cry room at St. Bernhardt’s, an American invention which makes it possible for parents of crying children to take part in the Mass without disturbing others. Thirdly, there is nothing American or English about the Mass at St. Bernhardt’s. For us (including my husband, who is German) the Mass is nothing more than a German Mass which has been translated into the English language. At All Saints the Mass is very similar to what I know from growing up in the US.
All Saints is an open, child-friendly Church that allows all of its members, be they girls, boys, young or old, not only to take part in the Mass, but to use their diverse talents and really contribute something to the Mass. All Saints Parish gives all of its members the feeling that they belong to one Family. All Saints is a dynamic and growing community. Why does the German Catholic Church want to close down the growing and financially independent community at All Saints? It is as if the Church wants to cut off one of its own fingers. We ask you earnestly that you reconsider this decision. Should a parish be closed only because of political reasons or jealousy? Does the German Catholic Church not keep its promises? I do not think that the late Pope John Paul II or our Lord God himself would be in favor of this decision.
Very sincerely yours,
The Rückeis Family
To Cardinal Sterzinsky (The Hansen-Waliszewski Family)
April 24, 2005
We are very saddened by the news that you have decided to close down All Saints in June 2005. We do not understand your decision, particulary at a time when a large number of Catholic churches in Berlin are being closed down due to the decrease of membership and financial reasons. All Saints Catholic Community, on the other hand, is a thriving and growing community! Our membership, under The Friends of All Saints Association, provide for all costs in our community and even transfer designated collections to the Archdiocese! We moved to Germany in 2002. After visiting several Catholic churches in Berlin, we decided to make All Saints Catholic our spiritual home. All Saints is much more than a church, it is a vibrant community representing all colors, nationalities and socio-economic backgrounds. What brings us together is our Catholic faith and the English language. For many members, including ourselves, the All Saints community has become part of our extended family. We come from all over the world and yet feel at home at All Saints Catholic Community. We cherish our coffee and cake meetings after Mass, and throughout the year, our celebration of festivities such as St. Patrick’s Day and Thanksgiving.What attracted us to All Saints is its family-friendly environment. Children are always welcome. Mass at All Saints is full of families! The glass room in the back is ideal for families with young children, such as our family with three small children. On Sundays, we have a Children’s Mass and our son, Niels, is a regular participant. The boys and girls in our community are also active participants at Mass either as Altar servers or choir singers.Members of All Saints travel from all over Berlin to attend Sunday Mass. Many come with public transportation. We have regular worshipers coming from Spandau, Tegel and Rudow! Our community lives in harmony with the Jewish and Protestant communities who also worship here. We represent what the world needs more of: harmony, peace and understanding. Why destroy the All Saints Community? And at what cost? My mother once told me a wise saying: for every action there is a reaction. If All Saints closes this summer, we will have no choice but to leave the Catholic Church. Closing down All Saints is plain unjust. Other All Saints families will attend local German Parishes. Please don’t read this as a threat, but as a reality. There is no other English-speaking Catholic church in Berlin which caters to families and has such a strong sense of community. There is no alternative. Please Save All Saints Catholic Community!
Most respectfully, Vanessa, Matthias, Niels, Julia, Josephine
The Hansen-Waliszewski Family
About All Saints (Stephanus Yowono)
Cempaka Baru, Jakarta 10 650, INDONESIA
It is very sad to hear the news from you that All Saints Church, where I spent 4 years, will be closed down. Together with my family, I really have a good memory of this church. When I came to Berlin in 2001, the first thing I wanted to know was a Catholic Church where masses were conducted in English. When I moved to Grunewald, I and my family became regular churchgoers to All Saints. There we found a sweet environment, friendly and caring relationship among the parishioners. All Saints Church became a melting point for all people coming from abroad and Germans from Berlin. If I may say, it was a small United Nations community with the common platform of Roman Catholic faith. My daughter was serving as an altar girl and another child of ours was baptized in that church. As Berlin is now the capital of Germany, I am absolutely sure that there will many people or expatriates in the future who need a place where they are not only looking for a place to pray but also to meet and share with other expatriates and Germans about everything they would like to know from A to Z in Berlin. On the other hand, as a committed Catholic, I am also worried to see the declining attendance on Sunday masses in Germany. I would like to see Christianity becoming the focal point in everything, especially in Germany. Therefore, maintaining the existing All Saints Church would be a good image, especially to people from other continents, showing that Christianity is still existing in Germany. The question always comes from my Indonesian friends, where Islam is in majority: "Why are the churches empty?" I hope that this question will not be followed by "Why are the churches closed?". So hopefully the continued existence of our All Saints Church will always spread the spirit it has given to so many people from different parts of the world.
Best regards to Gaby and the children.
To Cardinal Sterzinsky (Dan Powers)
Dear Cardinal Sterzinsky,
I read with great concern the article in the Tagesspiegel of May 3rd that the All Saints parish was being closed and forced to go to St. Bernhard. While the article attempts to justify the closure, the content of the explanation is extremely weak, and seems to be the function of an arbitrary, administrative decision. Certainly, the reasons are not credible, which call into question the motives of the Archdiocese.
The first reason given of integrating German and English speaking Catholics is not credible because that is what All Saints is currently doing. This is “crowd control” at the cost of a real community.
The reason given of creating sensible pastoral structures is not credible because they have two priests who have been serving the community; the same priests that you have ordered to stop saying Mass.Even though St. Bernhard has an English speaking priest, this priest does not allow girls on the alter at all. Will you decommission the girls that serve at All Saints as you decommission All Saints itself? The reason given that there is no guarantee that All Saints will be financially solvent in the future is not credible either. What kind of hypocrisy is it that allows a bankrupt diocese to close a Catholic Community that is financially self-sufficient? In fact they are so successful at this endeavor that they also financially subsidize your diocese out of their pockets, in addition to paying the normal church taxes out of their wages, and paying their own rent. They do not cost your diocese one cent. What guarantee does this small community have that St. Bernhard will still be in business in the future? I lived in the apartment building just to the left of the front door of this Church, and I attended Mass there every week. I was one of the Americans that lived in Berlin both while the wall was there, and after it fell. I was one of the soldiers who would have died if the Russians came over the wall. I was one of the Americans who did not run when the Russians threatened to fire artillery shells over the wall into West Berlin. When the Russians tried to convince the West Germans that the Americans would run when the bombs came, we said, "We will never run…we will fight!” And the Russians said, “Then you will die.” And we answered, “Then this is where we will die!” We would never turn our backs on the community the way the diocese is doing to All Saints. I was there. I went to this Church. I would have died there for my friends. I have earned the right to stand up for the All Saints Catholic Community and suggest that the archdiocese reconsider this decision, especially in view of the extremely weak reasons given by your spokesman as printed in the Tagesspiegel.
Having made this decision to close this community, I am assuming that you have personally visited these people. I hope that this is not a case of closing a community without ever visiting or getting to know them. This, I suppose, would be an extreme insult, which would not be indicative of a Catholic diocese.
Dan Powers, Sergeant Major (Retired)
United States Army
To Cardinal Sterzinsky (Dr. Konrad Giersdorf)
This letter expresses deep sadness and confusion at the decision to dismantle and extinguish the All Saints Catholic Community. Since 1957 the Catholic Community on Hüttenweg has served thousands of people, developing international relationships every step of the way. The relationships that developed during World War II when American care packages were sent to the East did not cease to exist after the war. They did not cease to exist when the wall came down and most of the Americans left in 1994. They continue, bound together by our faith, though many are separated by distance. The thousands who have preceded All Saints as it lives today are represented by the 300 community members, most notably the average 150 who attend Mass every Sunday… and this number is increasing! Destroying this community as it is today also destroys the larger community of thousands who have worshipped here.All Saints does not request special treatment – only those activities and Sacraments that are available to any Catholic Community. The following are our regular activities:
- Sunday Mass
- Traditional Outreach Programs
- Collection for the Sisters of Charity, Kreuzberg
- Family Group – following the Schoenstatt Family Model
- Family Support Group – a hands-on, volunteer group who supports our community by visiting the sick, collecting food for the needy, and reaching out to Catholics who have fallen away.
Your Eminence, we must humbly beg that you reconsider your decision to close down the All Saints Catholic Community. This community is a reflection of what a real Christian Community should be. The members – German, American, Indian, Australian, African, Philippine, Indonesian, British, and more – care deeply for each other. The co-location of Catholic, Jewish and Protestant faith groups in a single facility mirrors the world as it should be… cooperation and coming together of faith groups in peace.With great hope, we must ask for your help in continuing our community… to celebrate Mass, as well as the Sacraments of Baptism, First Communion, Reconciliation, Confirmation, and Marriage. As you have seen, All Saints is self-sufficient, and even supports the Archdiocese financially. We do not want to burden the Archdiocese in any way.We are saddened and near despair as the possible date of the tearing apart of our Catholic Community comes ever nearer. It is disheartening that so much sadness and despair will come about from a mere administrative decision.We have done so much to be able to follow Christ. We are a Catholic Christian Community…a family. Please do not let this family be torn apart. Once we beg most humbly for your mercy and consideration in this matter.We continue to pray for you always. You have been, and always will be, part of this family that we love.
Dr. Konrad Giersdorf
P.S A copy of this letter will be sent to former members and friends of our now worldwide existing Christian community.
To Cardinal Sterzinsky (Christa Goethe)
To Cardinal Sterzinsky (Robert J. Bentel)
Berlin, May 3, 2005
At age 62 I find myself an expatriate from the United States in Berlin. You have no idea how delighted I was to be welcomed by the community of All Saints after having searched for a church home at some length. I come from a large family with Catholic roots as far back as we can trace. I attended Catholic schools through the Master’s Degree level of education. I was attending Loyola University in New Orleans during Vatican II. I have a clear perception of the church before and after this historic event. One thing is that is very clear is the post Council emphasis on Eucharist, community and praying and working together as opposed to attendance due to obligation. I am a charter member of the first adult generation to raise children under Vatican II guidelines. What a privilege. I now see the young families at All Saints with this same zeal and commitment, bound by love and language, oblivious to race, color, or affluence. There is real, obvious Christian Community here. We are happy and have great appreciation for our Jesuit volunteers and we grow and strengthen each month. I have no experience in church governance, but I do have 40 years experience in business and at least 25 as a senior executive. I have come to learn that my best decisions have not ever been ones of appeasement but quite often ones that were proposed and suggested by subordinates who were committed and had demonstrated a history of commitment. We only ask that you consider our request as a holy and viable alternative, for the Holy Spirit will be with us and you either way. This community is a seed planted long ago and firmly rooted in faith and love. Nurture us my Dear Cardinal, and continue to watch us grow. We will make you proud and serve as example to our fellow Germans and the Christian Community at Large. To close this community will indicate failure. We have not failed but have thrived for no other reason than we bond and work and pray (and play) together in union with Our Lord Jesus. Will you help us?
Sincerely in the Lord,
Robert J. Bentel
Charlottenstrasse 81, 10969, Berlin
To Cardinal Sterzinsky
My family and I have been members of this community for 18 years. The chapel has symbolized civil and religious liberty for many years in the middle of a surrounding hostile and atheistic sea, which engulfed this isle of freedom in the then West Berlin. By closing down our chapel, all this shiny period of history will be denied as Peter denied Jesus in Gethsemane. Our congregation of a large number of nationalities is the most excellent example of meeting and integrating people from all over the world, who are united by their faith in Jesus Christ. I have experienced the help of the Holy Spirit many times; our wonderful songs have raised my spirit in times of trouble; our holy masses are a living encounter with Christ. I have hardly ever experienced our faith so close and vivid as I do at All Saints. Jesus said: where two of you gather together, there I am with you. This is all the more true for All Saints where Roman Catholics have been gathering for almost 50 years, including the military history of our chapel. This church is part of Berlin's and the divided and re-united Germany's historic and religious heritage. It stands for all those who stood up against atheism, heathenism and communism, everything John Paul II fought against throughout his life and papacy. This church is a historic monument remembering those who acted and actively fought for our political and religious freedom, and many of them sacrificed their most valuable asset on this earth, their lives. A shepherd acting in Jesus' name cannot forget about all these historic facts, especially since he has himself experienced all the hardships of an oppressive, totalitarian regime.
On Catholic church closings
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Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Stop the closure of the All Saints church in Berlin-Zelendorf, Germany!
Except that this Community is self supporting and in good financial situation, so the reason of the closure is not financial...