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Opinion

Opinion: Foul play in Christian Germany

Germany's football team will play a match in Berlin on Saturday, the day of the Catholic Church's most important divine service. Nothing seems to be sacred anymore in the Christian West, writes DW's Felix Steiner.

Many Germans feared an "Islamization" of their country long before last summer's refugee crisis. Or, as pollsters put it more precisely and eloquently: They have long been afraid of a growing influence of Islam in Germany.

Back in early September 2015, German Chancellor Merkel gave the right answer in addressing such concerns. During a visit to the University of Bern in Switzerland, where she was awarded an honorary doctorate, she responded to a question on this subject by saying that one could not reproach Muslims for living and practicing their religion. Instead, she recommended that anxious Christians showcase their own beliefs and traditions more emphatically.

Kickoff right on time for the Easter Vigil

This weekend clearly shows how little Merkel's appeal has resonated in present-day Germany: On Saturday night, when Catholics gather in church for the Easter Vigil liturgy - the most important mass of the year - and commemorate the resurrection of Christ, the international soccer friendly between England and Germany will begin in Berlin's Olympiastadion.

Steiner Felix Kommentarbild App

DW's Felix Steiner

It is probably true that such a scheduling conflict would be inconceivable in a Muslim country, as sports there would definitely take a back seat to religion. But it is also true that the chairman of the German DFB football association is not a Muslim. So this is by no means a provocation carried out by an Islam that is looking to attain supremacy. It seems simply that in today's fully commercialized world of European soccer, no other date was found for this actually rather irrelevant international friendly. Religious sentiments have no place in the lucrative business of TV broadcasting rights. And besides, who even goes to church these days?

Only 5 percent of Protestants and only a little over 10 percent of Catholics is the answer - that is the sad reality. Lack of funding cannot explain why: In Germany, "the coffers are full and the churches increasingly empty," lamented the Pope's secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, in an interview with DW last week. Advocating the Christian faith or Church interests has become passé in Germany - right up to the highest ranks of the Catholic Church. This is apparent, for example, in the fact that no one in Church circles seems to be bothered about the soccer match during the Easter Vigil - neither the bishops nor the lay organization "Central Committee of German Catholics," who actually issue press releases on everything.

De-Christianization of its own accord

The conclusion is obvious: Germany is, of its own accord, increasingly distancing itself from its religious roots. Religious traditions find full acceptance only when commercial interests come into play - Christmas presents, stockings and Easter goodies. The faithful are quickly branded a fringe group if they, for example, adhere to the rules of reduced consumption during Lent or obey the ban on dancing and celebrating on holidays commemorating the dead in November. Christians are now a minority that has no authority to impose rules of conduct on the long-established secular majority.

So I will dare to make a prediction: Sometime in the next 25 years, shops will be open on Good Friday in Germany. But the reason for this will have nothing to do with the growing influence of the current 5 percent of Muslims in Germany. No, it will result from the lack of respect shown by the growing nonreligious population to Christian culture and the traditions of European society. Many retailers will probably go to court and ask why amusement parks are allowed to open on the day Jesus died - traditionally a "quiet" day - when the sale of pants and cell phones is prohibited. And the judges will agree with the retailers, because money comes first and anything else would put the pants sellers in a disadvantageous position. And practically no one will show the least concern. Because almost nothing is sacred to anyone these days in the Christian West.

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