Pope Francis has offered a blunt assessment of Germany’s ailing Church during an audience with the country’s bishops.
To fix the crisis the Pope called for a revival of Confession, a better understanding of the Eucharist and for the German Church to model itself on the early Christians rather than place its faith in institutions.
In a speech handed out to the bishops at the meeting and translated by Vatican Radio, the Pope said he hoped the Year of Mercy might revive the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist in a country where “one can truly speak of an erosion of the Catholic faith”.
In Confession, the Pope said, “is the beginning of the transformation of each individual Christian and the reform of the Church”.
On the German Church’s decline Francis said: “Whereas in the 1960s the faithful almost everywhere attended Mass every Sunday, today it is often less than 10 per cent.
“The sacraments are always approached less often. The Sacrament of Penance is often missing. Fewer and fewer Catholics receive the Sacrament of Confirmation or contract a Catholic marriage,” he said.
“The number of vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life has significantly diminished. Given these facts, one can truly speak of an erosion of the Catholic faith in Germany.”
Pope Francis said Germany’s bishops should be inspired by the biblical couple of Priscilla and Aquila, who travelled with St Paul and strengthened the early Church.
“The example of these ‘volunteers’ can help us reflect, given the trend towards a growing institutionalisation,” Francis said.
“We always inaugurate new facilities, from which, in the end, the faithful are missing,” he said.
“It is a sort of new Pelagianism, which puts its trust in administrative structures, in perfect organisations.” The Pope explained: “Excessive centralisation, rather than helping, complicates the life of the Church and her missionary dynamics.”
Francis also told the bishops: “The Church must never get tired of being the advocate of life, and should never step back from proclaiming that human life must be protected unconditionally from conception to natural death.”
You can read an English translation of the Pope’s full address here.