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Keep hoping, Germans told

HOPE that Protestants and Roman Catholics might one day be able to share in the eucharist was expressed at the close of the 30th German Protestant Convention, the Kirchentag, held in Hanover last week.

There was "no alternative to the unity of the Churches in diversity", the convention's president, Professor Eckhard Nagel, told 100,000 people at the closing worship on Saturday. A Dutch Roman Catholic theologian, Fr Huub Oosterhuis SJ, was the preacher. Protestants and Catholics will come together for an ecumenical Kirchentag in 2010, and a leading Protestant bishop, the Rt Revd Wolfgang Huber, told the convention that he hoped it would be possible then for all to "gather at the table of the Lord".

The chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Karl Lehman, was more cautious, however, and emphasised that eucharistic unity could not be achieved in advance of full unity. He was quoted as saying: "Something is amiss if we issue an invitation to eucharistic hospitality and afterwards go back to our separate Churches."

The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder; the President, Horst Koehler; and the Opposition leader, Angela Merkel, all attended the opening ceremony. Professor Nagel urged the 100,000 people present to "take a stand against society's current depression and pessimism". Alongside reports of a drastic fall in church attendance, German newspapers are reporting an upsurge of religious fervour across society in general, but most notably in states of the former Communist East Germany.


All together? Chancellor Gerhard Schröder addresses an audience of 100,000 at the Kirchentag REUTERS

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