Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Stop the closure of the All Saints church in Berlin-Zelendorf, Germany!

http://www.expatica.com/source/site_article.asp?subchannel_id=52&story_id=19782&name=English-speaking+Catholics+protest+church+closure

Except that this Community is self supporting and in good financial situation, so the reason of the closure is not financial...
Comments:
Excerpts from Fr. Mertes’ sermon about the good and bad shepherd, 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.
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Georg Kardinal 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!
Respectfully
The All Saints Catholic Community
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His Eminence Georg Cardinal Sterzinsky
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.
Respectfully
The executive committee of the "Friends of All Saints": Dr. Howard Eyth, Michael D. Hoth,
Lupita Wilhelm, Heide Doblhofer
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Dear Cardinal Sterzinsky,
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 .
Sincerely,
Aicel Soler-Ortiz
P.S. A copy of this letter will be sent to former members and friends of our now worldwide existing community.
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Dear Cardinal Sterzinsky, 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
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Dear Cardinal Sterzinsky, 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
Osthofenerweg 28
14129 Berlin
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Erry-Stephanusus Yowono
JL. PAM I /11 RT 14/8, Cempaka Baru, Jakarta 10 650, INDONESIA

Dear Konrad,
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.

Stephanus Yowono
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His Eminence Georg Cardinal Sterzinsky
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.

Respectfully,
Dan Powers,
Sergeant Major (Retired)
United States Army
__________________________________

Dear Cardinal Sterzinsky,
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:
v Sunday Mass
v Traditional Outreach Programs
- Collection for the Sisters of Charity, Kreuzberg
v Family Group – following the Schoenstatt Family Model
v Rosary
v 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.
Respectfully,
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.
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ALL SAINTS became my home about twenty years ago. When you take an encyclopaedia of the Saints, you will find two things. First, the Saints in the order of the alphabet and what illnesses they can heal. Second, the illnesses in order of the alphabet and the Saints who can heal it. So it is reality in our community where there are All Saints. I have never found such deep Catholicism as here at Hüttenweg. Pupils and freshly baptized grown-ups come back to this “home”. Jesus taught us to bring the Gospel to all nations: in our community there are all nations! We hope… We would like to stay, please! Christa Goethe
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Dear Cardinal Sterzinsky; 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
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Dear 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. Tamás Meggyes
 
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