Das Bonifatiuswerk der deutschen Katholiken unterstützt katholische Christen überall dort, wo sie in einer extremen Minderheitensituation, in der Diaspora, ihren Glauben leben.

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Newsletter - Northern Europe and Baltic States

EUR 14 Million for Projects in the Diaspora

From left to right: President Heinz Paus, Vice-President Hermann Fränkert-Fechter, Secretary General Monsignore Georg Austen and Executive Director Martin Guntermann. Photo: Patrick Kleibold
From left to right: President Heinz Paus, Vice-President Hermann Fränkert-Fechter, Secretary General Monsignore Georg Austen and Executive Director Martin Guntermann. Photo: Patrick Kleibold

In 2019, the Bonifatiuswerk is supporting projects in the German, Northern European and Baltic diasporas to the amount of EUR 14 million.

One of the focal points of the project sponsorship is the aid for children and youths.  More than EUR 2 million are flowing into this area. Projects in Germany are supported with EUR 1.61 million, projects in Northern Europe with EUR 200,000 and projects in Estonia and Latvia with EUR 70,000.

The building aid supports 65 projects with EUR 3.23 million, including 36 projects in Germany to the amount of EUR 1.51 million, 25 projects in Northern Europe totalling EUR 889,500 and four projects in Estonia and Latvia to the amount of EUR 311,000. EUR 350,000 was set aside for urgent building projects.

With EUR 810,000, the faith aid supports the missionary commitment and projects of new evangelization in Germany, as well as personnel and trainee posts with a missionary character.

The transport aid supports the purchase of new BONI buses with EUR 800,000.

Initiatives for new evangelization and projects of religious education are sponsored with EUR 2.1 million. This also includes the First Communion campaign, the Confirmation initiative and the promotion of Christian customs.

EUR 5.615 million for Priests in Central, Eastern and Northern Europe

The members of the Sponsorship Allocation Committee of the Diaspora Commission. From left to right: Vicar General Theo Paul (Diocese of Osnabrück), Msgr. Georg Austen, Msgr. Klaus Hoheisel (Diocese of Passau), Pastor Alfred Manthey (Diocese of Münster), Pastor Dr. Christian Hartl (Renovabis/Archdiocese of Munich-Freising), Dean Carsten Menges (Diocese of Hildesheim) and Vicar General Alfons Hardt (Archdiocese of Paderborn). Ordinariate Councillor Thomas Renze (Diocese of Fulda) is missing from the photo. Photo: Theresita Müller
The members of the Sponsorship Allocation Committee of the Diaspora Commission. Photo: Theresita Müller

The Catholic dioceses in Central, Eastern and Northern Europe cannot sufficiently finance their priests due to a lack of own resources and state support. They receive financial support from the Catholic priests in Germany, who each month give one percent of their salary to the "Diaspora Commission of German Bishops – Diaspora Aid of Priests"In 2019, financially weak diaspora dioceses will be supported with subsidies amounting to EUR 5.615 million.  These are used for salary subsidies as well as for transport and building grants.

Priests in Northern Europe will receive EUR 4.78 million and priests in Central and Eastern Europe EUR 705,000.  The Secretary General of the Diaspora Commission, Monsignore Georg Austen, regards the help provided by the priests as a strong sign of solidarity from priests for priests.

The bigger part of the funding, around EUR 2.65 million, is needed to support the salaries of the 338 priests in Northern Europe (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland). EUR 300,000 has been earmarked for the purchase of urgently needed vehicles and EUR 1.75 million for the construction and maintenance of residences for priests.

2018 Diaspora Campaign: Testify to Christ

Opening of the campaign in Osnabrück. (from left to right): Father Dr. Andreas Knapp (author), Bishop Berislav Grgic (Prelature of Tromsø in Norway), Auxiliary Bishop Johannes Wübbe (Diocese of Osnabrück), Heinz Paus (President of the Bonifatuswerk), Sr. Brigitte (Prioress of St. Mary’s Monastery on Tautra), Reinhold Hilbers, member of the local parliament (Minister of Finance of Lower Saxony), Sr. Gilchrist (St. Mary’s Monastery on Tautra), Bishop Philippe Jourdan (Tallinn in Estonia), Monsignore Georg Austen (Secretary General of the Bonifatiuswerk), Burkhard Jasper (Mayor of Osnabrück), Martin Guntermann (Executive Director of the Bonifatiuswerk). Photo: Theresa Meier
Opening of the campaign in Osnabrück. Photo: Theresa Meier

Every year the Bonifatiuswerk prays for its fellow Christians in the diaspora regions. In 2018 Diaspora Sunday took place on 18th November.

Guests from Germany and abroad came to the opening of the campaign in Osnabrück and provided information about current projects of the Bonifatiuswerk, including the sisters from St. Mary’s Monastery on Tautra/Norway who, contrary to the current trend, have to expand their monastery due to continuing demand. Bishop Philippe Jourdan from Estonia and Bishop Berislav Grgic from Norway also took part in the festival service.

The motto of the current Diaspora Campaign is “Testify to Christ”. The mission of Christianity is to guide people to God and to a successful life and to accompany them along this path. Therefore we need people who live convincingly; Christians who say what they believe, who testify through their lives to Christ in whom they believe. Testify to Christ doesn’t mean to have a mission but to be mission, to be a model of Christ in my behaviour, activity, and speech. Therefore: Show outside, what you believe inside.

According to this motto, on Diaspora Sunday Christians in Germany made donations to projects of the Bonifatiuswerk in East Germany and Northern Europe, because no-one should be alone in their faith. 

Contribution of the Religions to the European Peace Project – European Congress Concludes With a Dialogue

Final panel discussion: (from left to right) Bishop Dr. Martin Hein, Rabbi Dr. Walter Rothschild, Annette Schavan, Prof. Dr. Claudia Nothelle, Dr. Wolfram Eilenberger, Aimann A. Mayzek (Chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany). Photo: Karl-Martin Flüter
Participandts of the final panel discussion: Photo: Karl-Martin Flüter

Without religion, Europe is unthinkable and the religions with their diverse traditions will be needed in the future to keep alive the "European Peace Project". This was the result of the three-day European Congress in Paderborn, which was held in November with a dialogue of representatives of religion, Politics and science. The last day was marked by a committed, sometimes controversial dialogue between well-known representatives of the three monotheistic religions.

However, all participants were in favour of opening up the religions. The Bonifatiuswerk organised the European Congress together with the Catholic University of Applied Sciences of North Rhine-Westphalia. What was special about the congress was the international and interreligious nature of the participants.

Guests from 14 different countries were among the participants. The high-ranking representatives of the Catholic Church were Bishop Czeslaw Kozon from Copenhagen, Archbishop Zbigņevs Stankevičs from Riga, Bishop Teemu Sippo from Helsinki, Bishop Peter Bürcher, Bishop Emeritus from Reykjavik, the Vicar Generals Ole Martin Stamnestrø from Trondheim, Antonius Maria Sohler from Tromsø, Niels Engelbrecht from Copenhagen, Alfons Hardt from Paderborn and Annette Schavan, Ambassador to the Vatican. Furthermore, the participants included Prof. Dr. Martin Hein, Bishop of the Protestant Church of Kurhessen-Waldeck, from the Protestant side; Rabbi Dr. Walter Rothschild, former State Rabbi of Schleswig-Holstein, from the Jewish side; as well as Aiman A. Mazyek, Chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, and Prof. Dr. Navid Kermani from the Muslim side.

On the last day, Elmar Brok and Navid Kermini analysed the reasons why nationalism continues to sprout throughout Europe. And so the three-day European Congress, which was often deeply theological, with a focus on the pastoral, concluded with a concrete appeal which was met with much approval among the congress participants: According to Bishop Hein, the religions should jointly call on their members and all citizens to go to the ballot box and vote for Europe.

New Project Coordinator for the "Traineeship in the North"

Personnel change: Ricarda Clasen (right) takes over from Anna Nick as coordinator of the “Traineeship in the North”. Photo: Bonifatiuswerk
Personnel change: Ricarda Clasen (right) takes over from Anna Nick as coordinator of the “Traineeship in the North”. Photo: Bonifatiuswerk

With the "Traineeship in the North", the Bonifatiuswerk has been giving young Christians from Germany the opportunity to get to know and support the Catholic Diaspora Church in Northern Europe for some years now. The programme is supervised and managed by the Project Coordinator at the Newman Institute in Uppsala, among others.

After three years, Anna Nick, who has decided to return to Germany, is handing over this post to Ricarda Clasen, who was herself an intern at the Newman Institute in 2016 and is currently completing her studies in adult education in Freiburg. In addition to traditional office and administrative work, she will be organising joint excursions from May 2019, bringing the trainees closer to the country, society and culture and acting as their permanent contact.

"The Traineeship in the North" can now look back on some 100 former trainees - every year around 20 trainees participate.
More about: "Traineeship in the North"

Renovation of Church and Parish Rooms in Visby on the Island of Gotland

Photo: Markus

Just in time for winter, the renovation of the Catholic church and parish rooms in Visby on the island of Gotland in the Diocese of Stockholm has been successfully completed.

The entire building complex of the Catholic Church in Visby was in great need of renovation. For a long time no renovation work had been carried out. Moisture damage and the resulting mould formation, as well as necessary installations of fire protection and safety systems led to extensive renovation work.

The parish in Visby is small, but due to the large number of tourists it is of great importance for the region. The next step will be the energetic renovation of the interior and exterior of the residence for the priests. The renovation was sponsored by the Bonifatiuswerk with EUR 50,000.

Nuuk: Pietà has Found a New Home in Greenland

The grateful parishioners, along with the Pietà. Photo: Irwin Dupitas
The grateful parishioners, along with the Pietà. Photo: Irwin Dupitas

In November, a Pietà from the Protestant Lutheran Wellingsbüttel Church found a new home in the Catholic Christ the King Church in Nuuk with the help of the Bonifatiuswerk. It was blessed on 25th November. The parishioners are very grateful for the generous gift.

The artistic depiction of Mary with the body of Jesus in her lap is rather rare in a Protestant church. It was on loan from Hella Ahrens, a parishioner of the Protestant community of Wellingsbüttel. Her father had the Pietà made 40 years ago in Val Gardena in South Tyrol.

When the parish wanted to pass on the Pietà, they learned that the Catholic parish of Christ the King in Greenland was looking for a Pietà. The parish belongs to the Diocese of Copenhagen and comprises only 300 Catholics who live all over the island. The transport costs to Nuuk, the capital of Greenland and location of the Catholic Church, were borne by the Bonifatiuswerk. 

Striking the Right Note: The Pope in the Baltic States

The Pope during an ecumenical meeting with young people in Tallinn. Photo: Heinz Paus

In September Pope Francis visited Estonia and Latvia. The President of the Bonifatiuswerk, Heinz Paus, who accompanied the trip, was impressed by the meetings and the joint church services. The people of the Baltic States experienced and felt the respect and appreciation of Pope Francis during these days. He repeatedly spoke out in favour of freedom, unity and solidarity.

Solidarity beyond continents and religions

The visitors listened enthusiastically and were affected by various speeches of the Holy Father. He repeatedly emphasised the importance of solidarity among each other; not only between Eastern and Western Europe, but also beyond continents and religions. This became particularly clear during the ecumenical prayer in the Lutheran Cathedral in Riga.

The Pope made it clear that faith unites us and that we can draw strength and hope from our faith. But this is only possible if we also know our own roots. If you want to build a peaceful future and grow, strong roots in faith will help you. By consciously experiencing a European network of Christian faith roots, Christians can experience that they are not alone in their faith – in all its diversity.

Diaspora is Not a Spectre: Journalists' Trip to Iceland

Vicar General Patrick Breen welcomes Filipino parishioners while enjoying a coffee after celebrating mass. Photo: Theresa Meier
Vicar General Patrick Breen welcomes Filipino parishioners while enjoying a coffee after celebrating mass. Photo: Theresa Meier

During a fact-finding tour of the aid organisation for the faith and the Catholic Press Association (Gesellschaft Katholischer Publizisten – GKP), twelve journalists from all over Germany experienced the challenges that the Diaspora of Iceland brings with it, but also the encouragement the comes from the faithful there and how the Bonifatiuswerk is supporting this with its various grants.

For example, they got to know the church café in the Icelandic capital, which is also known as the 8th Sacrament among connoisseurs. Young and old, Icelanders, Germans, Filipinos, Lithuanians and Poles meet here. The congregation is open, warm and international – a symbol of the Catholic Church in Iceland, where none of the 16 pastors are Icelanders.

The tour group repeatedly met strong personalities, who follow their mission full of conviction; Sister Sabiduria, for example, who now accompanies only a handful of children after working with many children in Tanzania. The group also visited the pilgrimage site of Marilund, a retreat, guest house and education centre as well as other religious sisters in Reykjavik and Hafnafördour.

In addition, the travellers gained an insight into the political perception of the Church during a meeting with the former President of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, and into an ongoing project in Selfoss, where a new church is being built.

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