Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, president of the German Bishops Conference, was among several representatives from Germany on the upcoming “Court of the Gentiles” which will take place in Berlin from November 26th-28th. The event is promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Berlin and the German Bishops Conference.
Fr. Laurent Mazas, Executive Director of the “Court of the Gentiles” began the conference by explaining the symbolic significance of such an event. One of the events include a procession of two groups near the Bode Museum. This he said, is symbolic of the “Court of the Gentiles”, two different groups who seek to dialogue and work together.
The purpose of the event, Archbishop Zollitsch explained to journalists, was to open a path of dialogue between believers and nonbelievers.
“Here believers, agnostics and atheists will meet to discuss in the center of the capital on [several] chosen themes: they will discuss ethical humanism in depth, on the greatness of the faith in God, of freedom of art and beauty, in respect to creation, the aspects and models of man, but also of the grace and dignity of human nature and devotion,” Archbishop Zollitsch said.
Regarding the procession will take place at the famed Bode Museum in Berlin, a place known to house both sacred and profane works of art, Archbishop Zollitsch described it as “an incomparable expression and representation of gestures and the lives of both believers and nonbelievers.”
The choreographed procession will have its central theme the question of “Do you believe what you know or do you know what you believe?” (Credi ciò che sai o sai ciò che credi?). The theme along with the physical expression of music and art is meant to be a physical manifestation of the hope of dialogue between believers and atheists.
Jesuit priest and doctor, Fr. Hans Langendörfer, Secretary General of the German Bishops Conference, stated that the event is meant to create an intellectual presence of the Church, that allows for a concrete dialogue with others. Dr. Joachim Hake, Director of the Catholic Academy of the Archdiocese of Berlin, said that the “Court of the Gentiles” is not meant to have representatives of different perspectives argue their beliefs, but rather a means to to speak with respect and understanding through the diverse experiences lived by different people.
Concluding the presentation on the Court of the Gentiles, Archbishop Zollitsch said that the example made by Pope Francis in his recent interview with atheist journalist Eugenio Scalfari is a perfect example of the dialogue promoted by the event. “It is a call to respect the opinions of others,” the Archbishop noted.
Statement on Bishop of Limburg
Before ending the conference, Archbishop Zollitsch made a statement regarding the recent news regarding Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of the Diocese of Limburg. Several media outlets in Germany criticized the prelate for spending an estimated € 31 million ($42 million) on a new residence and several offices.
Archbishop Zollitsch said that he was following the situation closely and a formal commission, consisting of experts in canon law and finance, are currently investigating the matter. “The names of the members will not be revealed as of yet, so as to allow them to conduct their investigation,” the Archbishop said. “As soon as it is over, both the report and the members of the commission will be announced.”
Although he said he is here solely for the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, the president of the German Bishops Conference asked for understanding while the commission investigates the matter.