The Pope took note of the marked decline in the life of the Church in Germany.
“Whereas in the 1960s the faithful almost everywhere attended Mass every Sunday, today it is often less than 10%,” the Pope stated in an address consigned to the bishops. “The Sacrament of Penance is often missing. Fewer and fewer Catholics receive the Sacrament of Confirmation or contract a Catholic marriage. The number of vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life has significantly diminished.
Given these facts, one can truly speak of an erosion of the Catholic faith in Germany.” “Paralyzing resignation” is not the answer to the crisis, the Pope continued, nor is “ever rising institutionalization” in which “new structures are inaugurated … It is a new Pelagianism.” Criticizing “excessive centralization” and “worldliness,” the Pope called upon each bishop to pray, to undertake new forms of evangelization and catechesis, and take seriously his role as “teacher of the faith, the faith transmitted and lived in the living communion of the universal Church.” “Fidelity to the Church and the Magisterium does not contradict academic freedom, but requires a humble attitude of service to the gifts of God,” he continued as he referred to theological faculties. Turning to parish life, the Pope emphasized that “the transformation of each individual Christian and the reform of the Church begins in Confession.”
Pastoral planning is “doomed to failure” if it makes priests appear optional or if it fails to emphasize the teaching, governing, and sanctifying role of priests. “The Church must never get tired of being the advocate of life, and should never step back from proclaiming that human life must be protected unconditionally from conception to natural death,” The Pope added. “Here we can never make compromises,” or else we ourselves become “culprits in the throwaway culture.”