Observers in Cologne, Munich, Würzburg, and other places told CNA’s German-language news partner that in many places a “modest number” of people attended the ceremonies, promoted using the hashtag “#liebegewinnt” (“love wins”).
Some blessings took place after the public ceremonies. In the Augustinian Church in Würzburg, for example, all couples -- expressly including same-sex couples -- were invited to “come and get” the individual blessing in a backroom, after the service.
One participant reported from Cologne that a total of six couples were blessed in the chapel of the local Catholic university community and a total of 23 people were present.
The participant told CNA Deutsch that the ceremony resembled a “political event.” The ceremony was led by a female pastoral counselor in liturgical robes, who explained that she had already quit her service with the church.
After some political statements, the Gospel was read aloud, followed by a speech. Finally, the song “Imagine” by John Lennon was played.
Writing in the Catholic weekly newspaper Die Tagepost, Regina Einig criticized pastors who appeared in the media promoting the event.
“Some pastors were not even deterred by the meager demand for same-sex couples willing to be blessed in their parishes from verbose self-promotion in the media,” she wrote.
“In this sense, the initiative ‘Love Wins’ was a highly clericalistic action and at the same time an image of the self-referential Church against which Pope Francis urgently warns.”
The backlash against the Vatican prompted bishops in other countries to express fears that the German Church was heading for a breach with Rome. They included English Bishop Philip Egan, Australian Cardinal George Pell, and Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong, added his name to an appeal, launched in Portugal, asking Rome to take action to stop a “schism” in Germany.
George Weigel, the biographer of St. John Paul II, and Fr. Thomas Weinandy, a Capuchin Franciscan theologian, also expressed concern about the direction of the German Church.
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German Catholics were among those criticizing the day of blessings. The group “Maria 1.0” urged the country’s bishops to unite with Rome in face of the protests.
The Pontifex Initiative, a network of young German Catholics, called on the local Church not to pursue an exceptionalist path.
“With today’s actions, the ministers involved are hurting the people of God. Let us not forget that our faith is Roman Catholic. This attribute is not an ornamental accessory. It is the core of our identity,” it said in a May 10 statement.
Helmut Hoping, a professor of dogmatic theology at the University of Freiburg, told CNA Deutsch that some of the priests conducting blessings “also openly advocate opening the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples in the medium term.”
Fr. Gero Weishaupt, a judicial vicar in Cologne archdiocese and a scholar of canon law, noted in an interview with CNA Deutsch that former Vatican doctrinal chief Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller and other theologians have spoken for some of a possible schism in Germany.
“And one can ask oneself whether it is not already latently realized,” Weishaupt commented.