The Shifting Alliances Among Catholics And Protestants In Germany

Analysis: In the birthplace of Martin Luther, the relationship among Roman Catholicism, traditional Protestant churches and newer evangelical movements offers a laboratory for how different strands of Christianity today are united and divided by ethics mo

Monument to Martin Luther in Dresden (rs-foto)
Monument to Martin Luther in Dresden (rs-foto)
Gernot Facius

BERLIN -- When Pope Benedict XVI addressed the German Parliament last year, its president, Norbert Lammert, created a stir among fellow Catholics when he called himself a "Catholic with Protestant leanings."

Having also criticized the celibacy requirement for Roman Catholic clergy and hinted that reforms in general were long overdue in the Catholic Church, Lammert is seen as an example of Catholics who favor a "Protestantization" agenda – a more liberal approach to sexuality, feminism, bioethics, women in the clergy.

It is a very public example of what German Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller refers to as "the wrong ecumenical track," one that would lead to "self-secularization." Müller's view reflects how uneasy the Roman Catholic hierarchy feels about evangelical counterparts who have everything that Catholic reformers want.

Yet at the same time, Lammert's personal admission has altered the wider discussion in Germany around ecumenism, ie, the relationship among different Christian faiths. It has also raised the basic question of what Protestantism actually means today. Are the mysteries of Christianity on the way out, leaving in their wake organizations focused on welfare, feel-goodism, psychology and moralizing?

Theological rubble

At a meeting of the German Bishops' Conference, an internationally reputed theologian was quoted as saying that ecumenism – while leading to profound mutual understanding about basic beliefs -- was only interesting for Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians who "shared the basic belief that the manifestation of God in Christ is not a myth." Ecumenism was useless among liberal Catholics who reduced faith to a cultural phenomenon and liberal evangelicals for whom Protestantism meant being "against the Pope and Rome and authority in general."

Theologians on both sides of the fence have cleared away a lot of rubble, not least as regards Wittenberg reformer Martin Luther who, for Catholics, has gone from being a heretic and destroyer of Church unity to a teacher for all Christians, a "great figure of renewal" in the words of Cardinal Karl Lehmann.

Still, there are new areas of conflict requiring work. For example: to what extent does the German Evangelical Church (EKD) still support Lutheran positions? Or: what would re-integrating the arch-traditionalist St. Pius X Brotherhood into the Roman Catholic Church mean for the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s?

The most interesting ecumenical developments are the new coalitions forming around ethics, not doctrine. Notable for example is the shift in attitude of biblically fundamentalist Protestants towards Rome; and vice-versa, as these evangelicals are no longer seen as annoying sectarians but as allies who praise the Pope for his warnings about the "dictatorship of relativism." They agree, furthermore, on issues such as protection of human life, family values, and stem cell research.

But while such a traditionalist alliance is forged, Protestant national churches in Germany are opening their rectories to ministers in same-sex partnerships, and blessing same-sex marriage. This tension inevitably creates serious problems for ecumenical relations within the Protestant community, with an impact on Roman Catholics as well, who actively work so that all Christians might speak with one voice.

But that doesn't look to be in the cards right now. If the refrain "doctrine divides – service unites' marked the early phases of the ecumenical movement, more suited to today would be something along the lines of "ethics divide – doctrine unites." Ecumenism remains a rich but complicated challenge.

Read original article in German

Photo - rs-foto

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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