The organizers of Germany’s biggest ecumenical gathering planned for 2021 have announced they intend the event to go ahead but on a reduced scale due to the COVID-19 pandemic and with strict hygiene measures.
The Third Ecumenical Kirchentag (church convention) is scheduled to take place from 12 to 16 May 2021 in Frankfurt and had been expected to gather more than 100,000 participants from Germany’s main Christian churches.
At an online press conference on 22 September, the Protestant and Roman Catholic organizers of the event said they were now planning for up to 30,000 participants in Frankfurt, together with virtual participation through streaming, hybrid events and online chat.
“The Third Ecumenical Kirchentag is needed, especially now,” the event’s Protestant president, Bettina Limperg, told the press conference. “Dialogue, fellowship, discussion and conflict also need space in the public arena.”
The event’s Roman Catholic president, Thomas Sternberg, said that the world was changing because of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Issues raised by the pandemic include what holds society together, the sustainability of the current economic system, dangers to creation, and how ways of living out the Christian faith are changing.
Sternberg said a comprehensive health and safety plan would be presented in October, following discussions with the authorities.
"We can organize the Ecumenical Kirchentag responsibly, carefully and in a new way and at the same time it will be a genuine and intensive Ecumenical Kirchentag,” he said.
The event is organized by the German Protestant Kirchentag and the Central Committee of German Catholics, which hold large-scale Protestant and Roman Catholic gatherings in alternate years.
As well as the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, other Christian confessions and churches from Germany are involved in the Third Ecumenical Kirchentag.
The first Ecumenical Kirchentag in Berlin in 2003 gathered about 200,000 participants. At the Second Ecumenical Kirchentag in Munich in 2010 there were about 130,000 present.
Both previous events had more than 5000 international participants. Organizers hope international participation will be possible in 2021, depending on official regulations.
The motto for the event is “Take a Look,” based on a Bible verse from Mark’s gospel (6:38).