Berlin's Archbishop Recalls Fall of Wall

Says Differences Remain Between East and West

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By Serena Sartini

BERLIN, Germany, NOV. 9, 2009 ( On the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the city’s archbishop is recalling the moment of Germany’s reunification with gratitude.

Cardinal Georg Maximilian Sterzinsky told ZENIT that when the border between East and West Germany was opened Nov. 9, 1989, he “couldn’t believe it.”

He had just been ordained a bishop on Sept. 9, and explained that he had been traveling to Rome to visit the Pope when the wall fell.

“Watching Italian television I saw the citizens of East Berlin as they crossed the borders,” the prelate recalled. “The next day I learned what had happened.”

Still today, when recalling that event, he said that he feels “above all, gratitude.”

“After what had happened in Tiananmen Square, in Beijing,” the cardinal explained, all of us in the German Democratic Republic [East Germany] “seriously feared that it could end in violent confrontations.”

As a newly ordained priest, before being named bishop, one of his first assignments had been to serve as pastor for 15 years at St. John the Baptist Community in Jena, which boasted the greatest number of Catholics in the territory of the former German Democratic Republic.

Cardinal Sterzinsky noted that among Germans today, “the euphoria over the fall of the wall has vanished.”


Although some people imagined that after this event the churches would be filled, he said, it did not happen quite as expected. “We have always lived in the diaspora in East Germany,” he explained.

The prelate continued, “No doubt many have placed in newly united Germany expectations that haven’t been realized.”

The East and the West “have developed together in many areas,” he observed, but “there are still fundamental differences.”

Those from the West, the cardinal explained, are “far more individualistic in their way of thinking and presenting themselves.”

In contrast, he continued, “people who come from East Germany have a way of feeling and thinking that is more collective.”

Though striving for unity, Cardinal Sterzinsky affirmed that the people from the two sides of the country have “a different taste for life.”

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