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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com
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.