Participants at Katholikentag Participants at Katholikentag 

German Catholic Conventions: 'We want to show our faith'

Marc Frings, Secretary General of the Central Committee of German Catholics, describes the goals of the Catholic Conventions, or 'Katholikentag', in Stuttgart, and how the festival aims to put faith into action.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov and Gudrun Sailer

The 102nd edition of Catholic Conventions, Katholikentag, is underway in the German city of Stuttgart. The five-day celebration marks a unique tradition in Germany and beyond, dating back more than 170 years.

The Secretary General of the German Lay Committee (ZdK), Marc Frings, was interviewed by Vatican Radio's Gudrun Sailer where he discussed the festival's history and significance.

Marc Frings
Marc Frings

"We have a very long tradition. We started in 1848," he noted, "but in a nutshell, I would say that this event that lasts for five days, and brings together several thousand participants who discuss, together with experts, political, Church, social issues," and "celebrates faith and culture..."

Mr. Frings noted how the event is primarily organized and supported by laypeople, saying this shapes the character of the event.

"If we go back in history, I have to add that in the early beginnings, the bishops were even excluded. It was a 100% laypeople only event." But today, he explained, there is always partnership with a host diocese.

"It's a close cooperation between the central committee of German Catholics and the German bishops here in Germany," he said, noting, "It's very important to say that it's a bottom up process."

The whole program, he said, involves some 1,500 events, panel discussions, workshops, and cultural activities, prepared and conducted by volunteers. "And it means that no one can complain about the program," he joked, "because it 100% represents the current priorities of representatives of the civil society coming both from the Catholic Church, but also from our ecumenical friends, from experts, from thinktanks, political parties, etc.."

Faith into action

Mr. Frings also expresses how ecumenism is very important to the long-standing tradition.

"We are hosting almost 150 workshops, panels, workshops that focus primarily on the ecumenical situation in Germany. And I think this has also a very practical dimension, given that most of the marriages in Germany today bring together partners from different confessions. I think it's important that we do not only take a theological, very academic point of view, but also a practical one, because economic life is something that goes very deep into private life of Christians in Germany."

Mr. Frings noted, "we do not limit ourselves to Church-related discussions, but we want to change the world and our surroundings accordingly, and hence, translate our faith into action."

He said they are also likely to discuss issues, such as climate change, postcolonialism, the war on Ukraine, the post-war situation in Afghanistan.

'We want to show our faith'

When asked how the festival is a faith event celebrating the Catholic religion, Mr. Frings agreed this is at the heart of these Days.

“We want to show our faith.”

Since this is the first time the festival has been able to gather since the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr. Frings said the organizing committee hopes to see over 20,000 participants join from Wednesday to Sunday in Stuttgart.

Listen to the full interview:
26 May 2022, 13:04