9 November 2009

Berlin remembers 20 years

A very cold and wet Berlin has just finished a day of celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Berlin Wall (though will someone please tell Kate Connelly that when she writes about "priests" she probably means "pastors"). The most ironic part of the day is that "security measures" meant that once the festivites had finished, the one place where it was impossible to cross from East to West (or the other way round) was the Brandenburg Gate. A small group of people gathered in front of the police barriers and started shouting "The Wall must Go!", as a television commentator appeared on a giant TV screen to tell revellers that all the other "border crossings" were still open for people to cross. The "security measures" in question were that the VIPs were on one side of the Brandenburg Gate and the people on the other. At one point it looked as though the Berlin police were doing a reconstruction of 1989.

Similar thoughts at the Gethsemane church where at the start of the day in this case both pastors and priests gathered for an ecumenical service to mark the anniversary. The Gethsemane church was a focus for the opposition in GDR days, and became a refuge for demonstrators taking refuge from police brutality on 7 October. Police then sealed off the church and the srrounding streets, and some of the GDR's civic rights activists thought they had almost come to a reconstruction of the events 20 years ago as the streets were again swarming the streets (this time thought to protect the represetatives of Germany's "constitutional organs" - president, chancellor and so on. Ecumenical News International has a report of the service here:
Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, officials have returned to a church in what was East Berlin, where protests of candlelit prayers helped bring down communism in East Germany. Germany's political and church leaders marked the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Berlin Wall on 9 November with an ecumenical service at the Protestant church in eastern Berlin, named after the garden where the Bible records Jesus spending his last hours.

"Today we look back at the fall of the wall 20 years ago," said Roman Catholic Archbishop Robert Zollitsch in his sermon at the Gethsemane church, only a few hundred metres from where the fortified concrete wall divided the city's eastern and western sectors from 1961 to 1989.

"We still feel today the gratitude and joyful amazement for this happening. What even only shortly before had seemed unthinkable became a reality," said Zollitsch, the chairperson of the German (Catholic) Bishops' Conference.

Still, Archbishop Zollitsch and Berlin's Protestant bishop, Wolfgang Huber, noted in their addresses at the Gethsemane church how joy at the opening of the wall in 1989 had been followed by soul searching about the effects of reunification between East and West Germany.
What the Ecumenical News International article did not have space to mention however was the explicit reference to the Conciliar Process for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (and the GDR Ecumenical Assembly for JPIC) as one of the starting points for the peaceful revolution. The intercessions were made up of extracts from the final texts of the GDR Ecumenical Assembly and introduced by Berlin's Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky-


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