By Lisa Zengarini
Christian Churches in Germany will focus their annual ecumenical 'Week for Life' on people who are dying or terminally ill.
Entitled “Life in Dying”, the week will be celebrated from 17-24 April, in Augsburg, and is organized by the Catholic Bishops Conference (Dbk) together with the Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD).
Debate on euthanasia
The theme was chosen in the light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, but also of the present discussion on the legalization of euthanasia in the country, following a controversial ruling last year by the Federal Constitutional Court.
In February 2020, the Court of Karlsruhe allowed pro-euthanasia associations that help people to commit suicide to publicize their activities, declaring a law which was approved by the Bundestag (the German Parliament) in 2015 unconstitutional.
As a consequence, the present the law will have to be changed and the Bundestag is expected to discuss the matter next week. In a statement in January, the German Bishops’ spokesman Matthias Kopp reiterated that, from a Christian point of view, “assisted suicide is not an ethically acceptable option.” He said that what is needed in these situations is not a help to die, but rather "support to develop prospects of life".
Pastoral assistance, palliative care for terminally ill
The focus of the Week for Life will therefore be on assistance to the terminally ill and the dying through palliative care and pastoral support.
The event will open on 17 April with an ecumenical service in Augsburg Cathedral at 10.30 am, which will be concelebrated by the president of the German Catholic bishops, Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, and by his Evangelical counterpart, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm. They will be joined by the local Catholic Bishop Bertram Meier and the Evangelical Bishop Axel Piper.
Promoting a global culture of life
Following the celebration, an online discussion about the ethical and pastoral implications of end of life will begin, with the participation of Church and civil society representatives, including auxiliary bishop of Augsburg, Anton Losinger, who is a member of the Bavarian Ethical Council and Protestant Theologian Traugott Roser of the University of Münster.
"We want to promote palliative and hospice support, as well as a global culture of life in our society in a more coherent way," Bishop Bätzing and Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm have explained.
The ecumenical Week for Life was first launched in 1994 to raise awareness in the Church and larger society on the dignity of every human life, from conception to natural death.