Some time ago a colleague of mine welcomed a delegation of students from an Arabian country to our city. She was both impressed and bewildered by that encounter: For her, it was fascinating to have first-hand contact with people involved in the Arabian Spring, but talking to them she also felt like encountering an entirely different world. As one of the most bewildering aspects she mentioned those people’s religiosity: not only that they were religious, but also the way they were religious: ‘This is just not comparable to Christianity’, she said, ‘they just thought they were right, and everyone else was wrong. And then their missionary zeal to have everybody believe as they do!’ – What a lowering thought that we have known each other for over a year and a half, and I have not got across to her that that is what we (with better justification) believe as well…


Last weekend I had a conversation with two atheists so far away from both the Church and Protestantism that they base their views on Christianity entirely on secular news coverage. Nevertheless, quite magically, conversation at one point touched ecumenism.They started comparing the situation between Catholics and Protestants in Germany to that of the Christian-Muslim-Jewish conflict in the Near East (‘religious intolerance’), which I strongly denied. Of course, they said, normal people did not think like this, but those in charge in the Catholic Church… This mildly blew a fuse in my irenical mental lookout and made me say that, au contraire, many Catholic priests and bishops in Germany were so intent on ‘ecumenism’ that they were countenancing all sorts of compromises, and sometimes right-out betrayals of Catholic doctrine, that I was often annoyed with it.

It took us several minutes to establish that this was what I actually wanted to say, so great was their disbelief.

I felt quite satisfied afterwards.