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Renewing the church as a community of hope: the German Catholic Church confronts the Shoah.


A spirit of hope and renewal characterizes recent Catholic theology, reawakened and energized by the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the new leadership of Pope Francis. After the council, national Catholic conferences convened to extend the renewal movement, though some of these movements attracted little attention beyond their country of origin. One of the forgotten treasures of the post-Vatican II Church is a document focused on hope and renewal, "Our Hope: A Confession of Faith for This Time" ("Unsere Hoffnung: Ein Bekenntnis zum Glauben in dieser Zeit"). Promulgated in November, 1975, by the Joint Synod of the Dioceses in the Federal Republic of Germany and drafted by fundamental theologian Johann Baptist Metz, "Our Hope" is the first official document from the Catholic Church in Germany to address the history of Nazi Germany and the Shoah. (1)

In the post -Shoah context of the document, "Our Hope" asks whether the heart of the Church's teaching--the focus on Christ's suffering and the cross--has also taught indifference to the suffering of others, especially the Jewish people. (2) But, as the Vatican started slowing down or resisting the reform movements soon after the close of the council, "Our Hope" and Metz were seen as moving the Church and theology in the wrong direction. Under the leadership of Pope Francis, such resistance seems to be lifting, and renewal is beginning again. Working in a spirit of hope in God, the synod engaged serious self-examination, critique, repentance, and change. These first steps by the West German Church produced some genuine theological recentering in light of the Shoah. In this new time of renewal, and in view of the fortieth anniversary of "Our Hope," I argue that these theological revisions should not be resisted or neglected as harmful to the Church; rather, they should be reintroduced to the living witness of the Church and experienced now--as they were then--as bearers of new hope and new meaning in the life of the Church.

Vatican II met barely two decades after the end of World War II. The world was still reeling from the suffering and death of the war, just beginning to confront the extent of the atrocities committed against the Jewish people in the Shoah, and just starting to worry about the conflict growing in Vietnam. Confronting this context, in Gaudium et Spes (the "Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World") the Church identified itself as a community so deeply connected to humankind and to human history that participating in the modern world embodies--not endangers--the meaning of Christian life. The Church's solidarity with the world calls it to take up "The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially those who are poor or afflicted" (no.1), in order "to save and not to judge, to serve and not to be served" (no. 3). (3) For the Catholic Church in West Germany, responding to the call of Gaudium et Spes meant confronting the "joys and hopes, the grief and anguish" of the modern world from within the country where National Socialism took root and where the war and its atrocities began.

"Our Hope" is still remembered by the Catholic Church in Germany. When the German bishops spoke out again about the Shoah on the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camps in "Opportunity to Re-examine Relationships with the Jews" (1995), they quoted extensively from the central witness and self-critique of the Church in "Our Hope" (4)--but the work of the Church to remember and to reflect theologically on the Shoah still has a long way to go. The passing years should be used to increase prayerful reflection on this history, not to forget it. Metz and the synod argued that we become more human by remembering (and more inhuman by forgetting) the suffering and death of others. (5) "Our Hope" certainly had a central and enduring effect on the development of Metz's theology. (6) For the Church, "Our Hope" is an encouraging example of how gathering to confront how it had failed to live as church can bring new life to the Church as a community of hope.

I admire "Our Hope" for its boldness, but, as with many official Church documents, "Our Hope" is written very carefully. To recognize the innovative responses of the synod, it is necessary first to understand its place within the theological and political concerns of the time. Therefore, I will first consider the document as responding to its specifically post-Shoah context. I will then present an analysis of the text, focused on the concern to respond to the Shoah, in two sections: how Part I of "Our Hope" reframes and renews the teachings of the Apostle's Creed, and then how the rest of the document, Parts II-IV, attempts to practice and apply the teachings of Part 1.1 will conclude with a short discussion of the reception of "Our Hope" both in terms of how it was received when first promulgated and in terms of some of its enduring message that should still resonate in the Church community today.

I. "Our Hope": Speaking from a Context of Crisis and Hope

The preparation for and the work of the synod operated out of a new mission to gather the Church inclusively. Although Germany was still divided after its role in the war, one tangible result of Vatican II was the establishment of the German Bishops' Conference in 1966. (7) In Christus Dominus (the Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church), the council had recommended that national conferences of bishops should be established. (8) New emphases given to these national conferences included that they should work with the various forms of apostolate, including the lay apostolate, and should stay informed about the circumstances of the faithful, including using applicable methods of social research in order to understand their circumstances and to encourage their participation: "In exercising this ministry they should ensure that the faithful are duly involved in church affairs, they should recognize their right and duty to play their part in building up the mystical body of Christ (no. 16)." (9)

To fulfill this mandate, representatives from the German Bishops' Conference met with representatives of a lay apostolate group, the Central Committee of German Catholics, to plan for a "joint synod" in which representatives from all dioceses in West Germany and all forms of apostolate would participate. (10) Employing modern methods of social research, in May and June of 1970, they sent out a pastoral letter and a survey questionnaire to 21,000,000 Catholics in West Germany, receiving 4,500,000 responses in return. (11) The use of surveys to prepare for the synod and the welcome given to methods of modern social science were exciting for ordinary Catholics, who experienced it as a new kind of responsiveness from the Church to their sense of crisis and conflict. (12)

The synod was first convened at the Wurzburg Cathedral in the beginning of 1971, with fifty-eight bishops, eighty-eight priests, thirty religious, and--amazingly--141 lay people present (including women religious and laity), with Bishop Julius Dopfner as president. (13) Metz began as an advisor to the synod; in 1973 this role increased when he was asked to write a draft text that would provide theological, linguistic, and stylistic unity. The final text, Unsere Hoffnung: Ein Bekenntnis zum Glauben in dieser Zeit, was accepted by a large majority vote (225 voted to accept the document, while only twenty-six voted to reject, and fifteen abstained) on November 22, 1975. (14) This level of welcome to the laity--both through the surveys and by allowing full participation at this synod--did not last. By the pontificate of John Paul II, beginning in 1978, reservations regarding such inclusive methods increased; polling results were hidden from the public, and the Code of Canon Law was revised in 1983 so as no longer to permit a synod with full participation by laity as had been the practice at this synod in Wurzburg. (15) This is especially disappointing in light of the great excitement and attention that the synod received at the time.

A profoundly communal spirit marked the synod and its work. The short text of "Our Hope" belies the incredible work and dedication involved in producing it. The breadth of the project becomes clear when one reads the accounts of participants, such as Karl Lehmann's brief overview of a few of the hundreds of discussions and decisions (and years of preparatory work) that went into determining the composition, process, and authority of the synod. For Metz, working with the synod was a transformative and foundational experience of church. (16) Lehmann similarly attested that, although the phrase "the synod as a spiritual event" was repeated so often that it sometimes seemed like a slogan, the phrase correctly conveys that the synod was, indeed, a spiritual event that united consultation, liturgy, meditation, reading, and prayer. (17)

"Our Hope" seeks to renew the Church for "our time" by giving "an account of the hope that is in us" (1 Pet. 3:1s). (18) The synod acknowledged that it was a time of radical questions, beginning with the shockingly fundamental question of whether or not there was "any meaning at all to being Christian in this time." (19) The surveys revealed that respondents felt their faith situation was in crisis. (20) This sense of crisis was complicated and diverse, but, as is evident from the biggest debates generated by the draft text, the sense of crisis was especially tied to the need to confront the war and the Shoah. Synod members brought to their work the sense of crisis, meaninglessness, and hopelessness felt in the society at the time, but they also brought the hopeful spirit of Vatican II, which suggested that truly living as church would make it possible to confront any crisis, even as the questions intensified about how to engage the Church with the modern world. (21)

"Our Hope" responds to these radical questions with a central theological argument that is also radical: Hope in God is meaningful only if it is lived out by concrete communities in history. The serious implications of this statement must be recognized. Did the Church destroy the meaning of its witness to God by failing to live as a community of hope in Nazi Germany? How can the Church confront the past? How can it move into the future?

The synod had to confront fear of both the past and the future, experienced differently across generations. While the late 1960's was a time of student protests all around the world, German students confronted their parents' generation not as the "greatest generation" (as Tom Brokaw named the American generation that fought Germany in World War II) but as the "Auschwitz generation." (22) The generation that came of age as university students in 1968, the "Achtundsechziger," is remembered as the center of the social and political turmoil in West Germany at this time. In Utopia or Auschwitz: German's 1968 Generation and the Holocaust, Hans Kundnani argued that German students sought to reject the Nazi past by rejecting all the political, institutional, and economic systems of their parents' generation, instead pursuing a Marxist utopia that used increasingly violent acts of political resistance against the evil they saw as inherent in their parents' generation. (23)

The students found a framework for their movement in the writings of the Frankfurt School--especially Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Herbert Marcuse--and drew from them central anti-authoritarian themes. (24) The area bombing of North Vietnam--and especially the use of the word "genocide" to describe the war in Vietnam--"evoked complex collective memories in Germany in which Germans were both perpetrators and victims." (25) Younger Germans connected the pictures of Vietnamese children burned with napalm with their own childhood memories of being victims of the bombing of German cities, but they also responded with relief to interpretations that another country (the United States) was a perpetrator of genocide (not just Germany); meanwhile, they felt driven to protest against the U.S. and for the Vietcong, perhaps as a way to avoid and atone for their parents' crimes. (26)

The synod had to bring together the different generations to find a way to confront the landscape of guilt for past suffering and to face together the fear of the future. The student movement, in its embrace of Marxism, assigned guilt to their parents' generation but exonerated from guilt their own post-war generation. (27) The synod had to speak about the Shoah not only to face an overwhelming history of suffering but also to address the question of guilt--without such simplistic divisions of innocence and guilt.

The language of crisis and hope characterizes the turmoil of this historical period. Metz's embrace of this language sets the distinctive tone of "Our Hope," but his embrace of this language also marks a significant parting of the ways between the theology of "Our Hope" and more traditional theology, such as that of Metz's close contemporary, Joseph Ratzinger, later to become Pope Benedict XVI. Metz and Ratzinger share similar beginnings. Both are Bavarians who were drafted as teenagers to serve in the German army in the final months of the war (Metz is younger by one year), and both were held by the Americans as prisoners of war. They were colleagues at the University of Munster (Ratzinger recommended Metz's appointment), and both were involved (at least initially) in the work of the synod. (28) After the council, however, they began to move in different directions. Ratzinger distanced himself from the reforms of Metz's teacher, Karl Rahner, while Metz extended Rahner's reforms. Metz participated in dialogue with the thinkers of the Frankfurt School, especially Ernst Bloch, and continued to develop ideas similar to Bloch's, such as the value of radically questioning God in the face of human suffering (a theme Metz later developed as the "theodicy question"). (29)

Metz placed the language of crisis and suffering, hope and protest at the center of religious language and experience, even as he repeatedly critiqued the Marxist framework of the student protests. (30) He argued that the Church's hope in God gives it a special capacity to protest against suffering and to long for a better world, a capacity that strictly political or socialreform movements (such as the student movement) are lacking. (31) Ratzinger, by contrast, saw the sense of crisis and political turmoil as dangerous and destructive. He described his time as dean of the faculty at the University of Tubingen in the late 1960's (with both Bloch and Jurgen Moltmann on the faculty teaching about hope) as a time in which "the Marxist revolution kindled the whole university with its fervor, shaking it to its very foundations." (32) Admitting that, while he had initially shared some interest in the "Jewishmessianic roots" and "biblical motifs" of Marxist thought, he concluded that this "politicization" was destroying biblical hope by replacing God's work with human political activism. (33)

From his central role as author of the draff text for the synod, Metz continued to argue that it is precisely the Church's hope in God that gives it a special capacity to protest against suffering and to long for a better world. Ratzinger reached the opposite conclusion, resigning from the synod in 1971 in a public letter offered as a "prophetic critique" of the synod and the renewal movements (a time he passed over in silence in both Milestones and The Ratzinger Report). (34)

II. A Creed Renewed by Hope

There is a tight theological and stylistic unity to "Our Hope," centered on the hope as it is lived by the particular community in history. The language of hope has inclusive and ecumenical resonance--Bloch and Moltmann also developed philosophies and theologies of hope. Using hope as the unifying concept is a reform-focused decision, both because it emphasizes future-directed change and because it sets a very different tone than a more traditional focus on faith would have set. (35) Carefully paired with the focus on hope, "Our Hope" is at the same time deeply critical of the way that the Church community has lived out its hope. The focus on hope and the self-critical force of the document are based on the conviction that religious truth is not independent of history--salvation history is not inserted into human history by God from above--but is concretely lived out by real human persons and communities in history who struggle and long for the reign of God. Again, the document leaves the reader to confront the serious implications of its claims; the teachings of the Church are not what make it a saving community, unless these are embodied in its actions. This intensifies the pain of remembering how Christians and the churches largely stayed silent as Jewish synagogues, businesses, and neighbors were persecuted. The theological message of "Our Hope" is matched with a style characterized by a tone of questioning, reflecting, searching, and being open to new and painful realities.

"Our Hope" reflects on the questions of its time that stem especially from the suspicion that the Church is merely using "worn out words and forms" in an attempt to cover up its inability to face "the questions and the fears, the conflicts and hopes of our world, the discovery of the meaninglessness [Sinnlosigkeit] of mortal life and of both our public and private histories of suffering [Leidensgeschichten]." (36) The synod structured "Part I: Witness to Hope in Our Society" to address these questions in an order that approximates the outline of the Apostle's Creed: God of "Our Hope," the Life and Death of Jesus Christ, the Resurrection of the Dead, Judgment, the Forgiveness of Sins, the "Kingdom" of God, Creation, and the Community of the Church. Despite this familiar outline, the decisions throughout this section are distinctive, reform-minded, and shaped to speak to "radical" times.

"Our Hope" begins its treatment of the creed by linking the idea of God to human history, hope, and suffering: "The name of God is deeply buried in the history of hope and the history of suffering [Hoffnungs- und Leidensgeschichte] of humankind." (37) Metz and the synod named God as the God who was encountered by a human community (the people Israel) in history. God is not defined in abstraction but as encountered in concrete human histories--"The 'God of our hope' (cf. Rom. 15:13)" (38) and "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Ex. 3:6; Mt. 22:32, N.R.S.V.)-- and ecumenically connected by this confession "with the Jewish people and the religion of Islam." (39) "Our Hope" offers the idea of the God of hope as a common ground among the three Abrahamic faiths and as a common ground between the Church and the longing and anxiety of the modern world, citing the Psalms that call on God even out of situations filled with anguish, fear, and danger. (40)

In "Our Hope," as in Metz's own later theology, the way of hope comes not from stepping out of concrete histories of suffering (such as by trying to see them from an abstract, metaphysical "God's-eye" perspective) but from journeying through the depths of them. Hope is not an easy optimism or an escape from life's disappointments and suffering. Instead, Metz and the synod argued that real hope is possible only by facing the painful reality of suffering and death. We have to face our deep grief to begin actively to live out our longing for a real human future for all people. Unlike the way a secular society tries to limit hope to small goals that are seen as "realistic," the church community stands at a critical distance from such society by grounding its hope beyond the limits of the human community, hoping in a God who promises justice for all and a future not only for the living but also for the dead. (41)

The section on God concludes:
   This does not make the name of God a codeword for a dangerous
   appeasement or a hasty reconciliation with our painfully torn
   reality. For it is precisely this hope in God that causes us again
   and again to suffer because of meaningless suffering. It is this
   hope in God that always awakens in us anew the hunger for meaning,
   the thirst for justice for all, for the living and the dead, for
   the future and the past, and that prevents us from settling down
   exclusively within the narrow standards of our world of needs. (42)

Hope in God does not allow us to look at a history such as that of the Shoah and then sit back and say, "God must have a reason," or "everything is part of God's plan," or "it's all for the best." Theological teachings about God must not be used to reinterpret as meaningful from God's perspective the injustice and meaningless suffering we see in human history. "Our Hope" argues that hope in God does not allow believers to excuse themselves from the danger and suffering of human history; in fact, it does the opposite. Hope in God demands that believers face the histories in which the innocent suffer and die for no good purpose at all. "Our Hope" suggests that, by doing this, the community will grow closer together and closer to God. The synod document gives witness to this argument in the transformative power of its own experience of coming together to confront the past.

Moving topically with the creed, the synod turned from discussing God to discussingjesus Christ. This step develops the argument of making hope concrete in human history (by adding to the story of the human encounter with God in history); it is also especially challenging because the synod had to address the distinctively Christian character of the Church's hope in light of a history in which Jewish people were persecuted while Christians participated as bystanders and perpetrators of this persecution. The section on hope in God emphasizes continuity between religious traditions, but Metz and the synod faced tension over the question of continuity or discontinuity with Judaism in the section on Christ. (43) Metz's original opening sentence to the section described Jesus Christ as "our hope," because "in him God is revealed" (mirroring the theological continuity between God and Christ by naming both with the same name); the synod, however, replaced Metz's opening sentence with "Our hope is Jesus Christ." (44) The revised statement loses the emphasis that both Christians and Jews share the same hope in God, though this message is still communicated by the section. (45)

In addressing the Shoah, the question of the continuity or discontinuity between Christology and the Jewish faith of Jesus' time presents challenges. The declaration Dominus Iesus, for example, written by Cardinal Ratzinger while Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, emphasizes the distinctive and discontinuous character of the Christian claims about the role of Christ in salvation. (46) Ratzinger appealed to Christian doctrines of Chirst's incarnation, satisfaction, and atonement in such statements as: "As an innocent lamb he merited life for us by his blood which he freely shed. In him God reconciled us to himself and to one another, freeing us from the bondage of the devil and of sin." (47) "Our Hope" takes a very different approach, only occasionally using incarnational language and otherwise focusing almost exclusively on themes of discipleship and resurrection. Unlike a descending Christology that begins with a distinctive role played by Christ in redeeming human beings from sin, Metz shifted the emphasis in an ascending Christology to the way Jesus lived his life in commitment to those who suffer or are outcasts and to his resurrection (seen as God's promise to all that suffering and death will not have the final word). "Our Hope" points to the broad interest that people still have in Jesus' life and conduct, his welcome to human beings, his solidarity with strangers and outcasts, and his call to action. (48) "Our Hope" avoids claiming that this interest injesus alone is enough for the Church, but it emphasizes the way that following Jesus can inspire and guide a life lived out of hope in God. (49)

The discussion of Jesus' resurrection tightly links the themes of suffering, hope, and critical self-reflection. The Christ story becomes a history of hope (Hoffnungsgeschichte) only because Jesus lived fully within the history of suffering (Leidensgeschichte); Christians likewise can speak of the happiness and joy, freedom and peace, promised in the vision of the Reign of God only if they first live in and through the history of suffering. (50) While the synod criticized the wider society for its numbed response to suffering, it also offered a penetrating critique of the Church that includes the synod's first use of the name "Auschwitz." This important passage is worth considering carefully:

The message of Jesus, however, always applies also to ourselves, who look hopefully at his cross. It does not allow us to use his history of suffering to forget the anonymous history of suffering of the world;... it does not allow us to forget the persecution of countless persons for their faith, their race, or their political standpoint in the fascist or communist systems of our century that were tortured to death, or the innocent children killed from the time of Herod to the time of Auschwitz to today. In this history of our Church and of Christianity, have we not taken Christ's hope-creating suffering and then cut it off too much from the one history of suffering of humanity? In connecting the Christian idea of suffering exclusively with Christ's cross and with ourselves as his disciples, have we not created gaps in our world, spaces filled with the unprotected suffering of others? Haven't we Christians often been unfeeling and indifferent in a frightening way to this suffering? Haven't we cast it out into the "purely secular sphere"--viewing our hope as above this sphere so that we would never hear this "profane" history of suffering directly contradicting us and challenging the seriousness of "our hope:" "Lord, when did we see you [suffering]?"... "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me" (Mt. 25:44a and 45, N.R.S.V.)? (51)

Instead of turning to the cross to preach a distinctive salvific value for Christians--as Ratzinger did in Dominus Iesus--the synod suggested that Christians have overemphasized both the distinctive character of the cross and their own importance as followers of Jesus. By asking a series of radical questions, Metz and the synod reinterpreted the meaning of the cross. The cross must not be read as a narrative that allows us to look away from specific historical agonies to claim instead some spiritual or eternal triumph beyond history. Jesus' cross is not the only history of suffering that matters. The synod text slowly lists many cases and kinds of suffering and persecution, finally naming both fascism and Auschwitz. Although the criticisms are not framed as conclusions but first as warnings ("it does not allow...") and then as critically reflective questions ("haven't we... ?"), the pointed critique begins once Auschwitz is named. (51)

Naming Auschwitz at the heart of a critical discussion of the Church's Christology shapes the rest of the document by a concern to renew the Church after Auschwitz. "Our Hope" challenges a traditional Christian interpretation of salvation that puts Christ's cross alone (and the Christians who believe in Christ) at the center. The synod pointedly asked Christians if they have used the story of the cross as an excuse to turn away from history and away from the suffering of others who are not followers of Christ. "Our Hope" concludes its discussion of Christ by using Jesus' own teaching from Matthew 25 that the way to respond rightly to Christ's suffering is to care for those--especially the most vulnerable--who are suffering right now. These questions suggest that during the Shoah the place to find the saving power of Christ's cross was not in the quiet of the churches but in the dangerous struggle to rescue the victims of the Nazis. "Our Hope" reinterprets the cross as a call to solidarity, prayer, and action on behalf of those who are suffering and to all who have suffered. Although the discussion of Christology presents a major critique of the Church, it also reinterprets the Christ story for Christians as a critical corrective and as a source of hope.

The Christ story brings hope because the story ends not in death but in resurrection. Significantly, the section is not titled narrowly as "Christ's Resurrection" but broadly as "The Resurrection of the Dead." Metz and the synod squarely acknowledged that, in the modern secular context, the idea of life for the dead is remote and unrealistic, with little sense of communion with the dead. (53) "Our Hope" counters that hope for the dead is a message of justice, accusing modern secular hopes of seeking justice only for survivors and future generations, not also for the past and the dead. (54) "Our Hope" suggests that failing to hope for the dead is to accept the meaninglessness of suffering:
   But to forget and to displace this question of the life of the dead
   is to become inhuman. To forget and displace the sufferings of the
   past means giving ourselves up to the meaninglessness of this
   suffering. In the end, no happiness of the grandchild can make up
   for the suffering of the parent, and no social progress reconciles
   the injustice done to the dead. When we submit for too long to the
   meaninglessness of death and the indifference to the dead, in the
   end we have nothing more than banal promises to offer to the
   living. Not only is the growth of our economic resources
   restricted, as we today are repeatedly told, but also the resources
   for meaning; it is as if draining our reserves to the dregs and
   risking the danger that the great words under which we conduct our
   own history--freedom, emancipation, justice, happiness--will in the
   end be left with only an emptied and dried out meaning. (55)

The synod turned an economic concern about how we are wasting our natural resources into an analogy warning about how we are abusing our resources of meaning. Against the secular argument that religion destroys human freedom, "Our Hope" argues that the Church's hope for justice and for a future for all persons extends the meaning of the human person and the human community far beyond anything political movements alone can offer.

Metz's and the synod's analysis of meaning seeks to confront and overturn the experience of the meaninglessness of human life in history and in the Church. It challenged the student movement in Germany for concluding that Marxism is the only way to advance society to a stage where histories such as that of Auschwitz could never again take place. The students hoped for a "utopia" enjoyed by future generations that would leave behind all the sufferings and injustices of the generations of the past. In response, Metz and the synod argued that the Church is better able to respond to Germany's past precisely because the Church cannot give up on longing for justice and a future for the living and the dead. "Our Hope" associates hope for others and for the dead with human community, meaningfulness, and life, and in stark contrast it associates "self-centered" hope with isolation, meaninglessness, and death. (56)

The synod argued that the Church must live through the history of suffering (Leidensgeschichte) to be able to live out its history of hope (Hoff nungsgeschichte) and thereby to live in history as a community of meaning (iSinngemeinschaft) against the meaninglessness (Sinnlosigkeit) of death. (57) The tight syntax of the German text beautifully interlocks the argument. Hope for the resurrection of the dead enriches the human person and the human community living in history because it is "other-centered," a conclusion drawn with the help of 1 Jn. 3:14 (N.R.S.V.): "We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love, abides in death." (58) The hope of the Church is fundamentally other-centered and must be lived that way--especially when the other is suffering--if it is to be meaningful.

Although the Shoah is not mentioned in the discussion of the resurrection of the dead, it is impossible to read a section on "other-centered" hope--following the first naming of Auschwitz--without thinking of the death camps and the millions who were killed as part of Hitler's genocide that was directed especially against the Jews. Addressed to a Christian community with a long history of teaching and acting as though the Jewish people have lost their place in God's covenant and concern, the synod's discussion of the resurrection of the dead carefully made the case that the Church's own access to meaning and to God is restricted and distorted when it fails to include all "others" in its life and hope.

The elements of the creed that fill out the rest of Part I are transformed by the memory of the Shoah, even as it remains unmentioned. The discussion of the resurrection of the dead is followed by discussions of judgment and the forgiveness of sins. Again, the intent of these sections must be read in light of Germany's history. As the synod turned to focus on justice, the critique and re-centering of the Christian community as concerned for all others continued, with the insistence that "justice as well as love is stronger than death" and that the demands of justice apply to all people equally. (59) Not only did the synod hope for justice for those who suffered unjustly, but it also warned of God's judgment of the injustice of what people have done or have failed to do. (60) The section on judgment is delivered with critical questions to the Christian community as well as with praise for the way that hope in God's judgment and justice can help fuel the struggle against injustice. The discussions of judgment and forgiveness of sins help to counter the risk that the earlier emphasis on resurrection might produce a form of quietism. One cannot claim that suffering does not need to be addressed concretely because God will rectify all injustice in heaven. The section on forgiveness develops this point with a frank discussion of guilt and responsibility.

"Our Hope" criticizes contemporary conversations about innocence and guilt. The 1968 student movement was tied to a generational issue of guilt. "Our Hope" criticizes those who operate under the "secret illusion of innocence," referring to both the political reform movements and to the Church for seeing guilt and failure only in others. (61) The synod warned that such thinking divides the history of human freedom in two, using a powerful "mechanism of self-exculpation" to claim all the success and victories as human work but to deny any human role in the dark and catastrophic side of history. (62) "Our Hope" argues that we are structurally entangled in guilt because of our global interdependence, such that guilt is incurred not only in what we directly do or fail to do but also in what we permit to happen to others. (63) The need to repent should not freeze people with fear, nor should it be used to present one group's oppression of another as "legitimate" (for example, as Christians have used such biblical verses as Mt. 27:25 to justify oppression of Jewish people). (64) If we talk of guilt, repentance and conversion are the only ways to disclose and rescue human freedom; humans will never be perfect, but we can find joy in accepting concrete responsibility for the human world. (65)

In the final three sections of Part I ("The 'Kingdom' of God," "Creation," and "The Community of the Church"), "Our Hope" concludes where it began, with the call to be church--a reality freshly seen through the focus on hope. Even if a world without oppression were to be achieved, the synod argued that the human person would still be "always a questioner and a sufferer," who seeks and hopes for meaning to human life because this longing is directed toward the "extravagant standards" of the Reign of God--a life of peace, love, fellowship, home, freedom, reconciliation, justice, laughter, and tears wiped away. (66)

The synod distinguished the character of the Church from a secular community. The Church is not an "ideological community" (Gesinnungsgemeinschaft) of meanings it invented for itself, but it is a "community of hope" (Hojfnungsgemeinschaft) and a "community of meaning" (Sinngemeinschaft) grounded in the work of Jesus Christ and united by the Holy Spirit. (67) For the Church, the orienting hope in the Reign of God is a hope so radical and demanding that it cannot be hoped just by oneself or for oneself; in stead, hope is a hope for others that can only be sustained when supported by others in a community of hope. (68) Confronting the dangers of an "overorganized" and "depersonalized" world on the one hand and the dangers of overemphasizing the Church's institutional structures on the other hand, the Church must continually renew itself as a community of hope, love, and meaning. (69) By confronting its recent history and especially its failures, the Church has the opportunity to renew itself through the creedal character of its life of hope grounded in God.

III. The Practice of Hope

After the first part of "Our Hope" seeks to renew the self-understanding of the Church by following the outline of the creed, the final three shorter sections discuss how to live concretely as church. The synod recognized the difficulties that the modern world seems to present to the Church--the modern world is indifferent to the Church or has already rejected it as "hostile to liberation" or as "a place where knowledge and productive curiosity are suppressed and any interest in freedom and justice are merely simulated." (70) Although it seems impossible for the Church to live in such a world, the synod argued that the only way to "conform to the present" of the crisis in the Church's life is to "conform to hope"--to live as a "counterweight" to the hopelessness of the modern world. The central themes of Part I are revisited in each attempt to be more concrete. The Church bears responsibility--is guilty, even--for failing to embody and make credible the Church's hope in the modern world. (71) Part I acknowledges the central role of self-examination and self-critique; the synod began to take up this challenge as it asked in Part II: The One Witness and the Many Bearers of Hope: "In witness to our hope, are we what we confess we are?" (72)

The crisis in the Church does not ultimately stem from the challenge of the modern world, the synod argued, but from the challenge of living anchored in the hope of Jesus Christ and his message of the Reign of God. (73) "Our Hope" distinctively locates the crisis (and the response to the crisis) within rather than outside the church. As a response, the synod called for a more consistent life of discipleship of Jesus, a life that makes it possible to participate in "the problems, questions, and sufferings" of the world without bending to its "hopelessness." (74) Trying to live in greater conformity to Jesus Christ means being free to see and confess sin and failure. Recalling Vatican II's confession that the Church is "a Church of sinners," the synod went further by confessing that "we are a sinful Church." (75) It is important to recognize how radical the synod was willing to be in approving and promulgating such a statement. In contrast, for example, in The Ratzinger Report, Ratzinger argued that, even though every member of the Church is called to recognize and confess guilt, "this in no way means" that the Church in itself is a sinner, because the Church "is a reality that surpasses, mysteriously and infinitely, the sum of her members." (76) Ratzinger maintained a strong emphasis on the supernatural character of the Church, but Metz and the synod sought to emphasize the concrete, historical character of the Church and, in that vein, to dare to apply the term "sinful" to the Church itself.

As the synod began to name the sins and failures of the Church, the history of the Shoah was again clearly present in their discussions. A life of discipleship to Jesus means a life lived radically for others. "Part III: Ways of Discipleship" takes up this topic, discussing discipleship in terms of four "ways": the way of obedience to the cross, the way of poverty, the way of freedom, and the way of joy. These ways of following Jesus are all grounded in Jesus' life as a life of "obedience" to God, such a complete commitment to God that it is a kind of poverty--everything else has been given up--and also at the same time a kind of freedom, since there are no other powers that can sway this commitment. (77)

"Authority" and "obedience" are difficult terms to use because of the way language about God's authority has been used to reinforce obedience to political authority. The synod explained that God must not be seen as an oppressive tyrant-God but as a God who "raises up and frees, who opens a promising new future to the guilty and the humiliated in the outstretched arms of [God's] mercy." (78) Freedom and joy are to be found in following Jesus--not in a society focused on satisfying our own wants but in a life of hope and solidarity, especially for those who are poor and weak and abandoned by others. (79) As central as Jesus' witness is for the life of the Christian church, "Our Hope" argues that it is central because it is other-centered, centered on hope in God and on hope for all who suffer and are persecuted. Again, we have to consider the bold implications of this statement on our own; to turn inward as a Church, rather than to care for all others, is to fail to live in witness to Christ and to fail to be church.

These characteristics of following Jesus should make it possible to engage in concrete and practical methods of renewal for the Church. Part IV offers "Programs for the Whole Church and the Whole Society," in an attempt to be even more concrete and practical. (80) The synod presented four directions for renewal: for unity among Christians, for a new relationship with the faith-history of the Jewish people, for table fellowship with the poor churches, and for a life-worthy future for humankind. However, Part IV reads like a text written with many voices, as brief mentions are made of issues such as communism, ecumenism, poverty, marriage, euthanasia, abortion, and environmental concerns. Many of these issues (with the exception of poverty) are not typical of Metz's theology.

The discussion of a new relationship with the Jewish people is one of the few sections in Part IV that clearly bears the stamp of Metz's own theology, although there were major debates before the draft passed. (81) The synod identified the Shoah--"the systematic attempt to exterminate the Jewish people"--as the event that "eclipses" the rest of recent German history. (82) The language of a "sinful Church" in the previous section resonates again as the synod admitted the exemplary conduct of some individuals and groups, but it moved to confess specifically that, when "taken as a whole," the Church community operated "too much with its back turned to the fate of these persecuted Jewish people, and--with its gaze fixed too much on the threat to its own institutions--kept silent about the crimes perpetrated against the Jewish people and Judaism." (83) The synod acknowledged that Christians cooperated in this persecution, even if at times out of fear for their lives. It called for an acknowledgement of this guilt and for a willingness to learn from this "sinful history" of "our country and even our church." (84)

The synod offered up the German Church as now having a special duty to work as a counterweight to this sinful history by watching for abuses of human rights, by assisting all who are persecuted, and by taking on "its particular commitments to the heavily burdened relationship of the whole church to the Jewish people and their religion." (85) The synod explained further:
   Especially we in Germany must not deny or play down the salvific
   connection between God's people of the old covenant and the new
   covenant, which the apostle Paul also saw and confessed. For in
   this sense also we in our land have become debtors (86) to the
   Jewish people. In the end the credibility of our speech about "the
   God of hope" in the face of such a hopedestroying horror as that of
   Auschwitz depends above all on the fact that there were innumerable
   people, both Jews and Christians, who even in such a hell and after
   having experienced such a hell again and again called on and prayed
   to God. (87)

This text reverses many layers of traditional theological language about Christians and Jews and about gaining or losing the role of bearing witness to hope in God's promises. Metz returned to the idea that the Church must live as a community of hope as a counterweight to the hopelessness of the world.

The first layer of self-criticism offered by Metz and the synod was that, in Germany's recent history, the Church largely failed to live as a community of hope and failed to do enough to defend the "others," especially the Jews, who were persecuted and killed under National Socialism. The deeper layer is that, while the Church was failing to live as a community of hope, many of the victims of extermination camps such as Auschwitz were calling out and praying to God from within a terrifying reality of destruction, and the Church was not present to help them. (88) This is the argument of the Christology of "Our Hope": The only way to access the "history of hope" in God (or what we might call "salvation history" in a more traditional theology) is to risk all the dangers of the "history of suffering"--to risk losing even one's own life, as Jesus did, to maintain solidarity with others who suffer and to live out hope in God. If the churches and Christians failed to face the dangers of a history of suffering and death, then they also failed to embody what it means to be church.

Because of this failure, the synod suggested that Christians have become "debtors" to the Jewish people. There was significant debate during the synod about how far to take this claim, and Metz repeatedly commented that his original text emphasized only Jewish prayers from Auschwitz and that the synod's insertion of "and Christians" into his original text was against his intentions. (89) While there are many important questions to bring to this claim (to make sure that it does not focus on those who prayed instead of those who did not and to remember the many groups who were targeted by the Nazis), Metz rightly tried to address the focal way in which Jews were targeted and killed, but Christians did little to intervene. There has been a long-standing anti-Jewish strain in the Church, arguing that the Jewish people are guilty for rejecting Jesus and that they have been cut off from God's saving covenant because of this rejection. Metz was trying to reverse these arguments in "Our Hope," suggesting that the Church, especially the German Church, was guilty for failing to protect and stand with their Jewish neighbors and was at risk of having cut itself off from God's saving presence in history. (90) This is a very radical argument, though perhaps too subtly made to gain the attention it deserves.

Sometimes, the self-critique of "Our Hope" is made in the suggestive but not necessarily conclusive style of probing questions. Metz and the synod wanted to encourage a life of questioning and self-reflection in the Church, but there are times when this style leaves the most important conclusions too much in the hands of the interpreter, who might not have the theological background to recognize the seriousness of the implications and conclusions. The section on Auschwitz, in contrast, does not ask questions but only offers statements of confession and commitment to change the Church's relationship to history, to those who suffer in history, and especially to the Jewish people and the Jewish faith.

The painfully reflective questions in Part I, especially in the section on the life and death of Jesus Christ, lay the groundwork for the bold statements in Part IV (the only two sections to name Auschwitz). The Christology of the Church has been used to justify exclusive ways of valuing Christ's suffering and the Christian community, producing "gaps in the world, spaces filled with the unprotected suffering of others." (91) The critique of the Church community is made at the center of the self-identity of the Christian community. However, as established in the renewal of the teachings of the creed in Part I, it is also the Church's connection to the life and resurrection of Christ that call it to confess guilt and to seek renewal.

"Our Hope" fittingly concludes with a section drawing on eschatological images. The synod envisaged a future that is welcoming and worthy to all, emphasizing the need to reduce the divisions in the world and for the wealthier churches, such as the German Church, to champion justice, freedom, and peace in the world. "Our Hope" reaffirms that its hope is rooted in Christ and in the expectation of Christ's return and that this hope stands together with all human beings "for justice, freedom, and peace in our world." (92) It ends with the image from Revelation of the time when at last God dwells among humans and "will wipe every tear from their eyes," when "Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more," and God will say, "See, I am making all things new." (93) Even the Church needs to be made new.

IV. The Reception of "Our Hope"

The theme of the final plenary session of the synod was "The Synod ends--the Synod begins." (94) The Church has to do more than just write about renewal; it has to live its transformation. After this period of amazingly broad participation across different apostolates of the Church, many felt that the Church did begin to transform, with more Christians recognizing that the way they live their lives at the parish level is the Church. (95) But, as the official Church backed away from these renewal efforts, the sense of change also receded. As Metz continued to develop and pursue these new directions, arguing that theology cannot be done "with one's back turned to Auschwitz" and that theology and the Church must recognize the situation as "after Auschwitz," he remained a minority voice in this concern. (96) Ratzinger continued to oppose the theological directions taken by Metz, including using his position as archbishop and cardinal of Munich to block Metz's call to a post in fundamental theology at the University of Munich in 1979. (97)

There was significant media attention and interest in the whole process of the synod, but it was still difficult to absorb the significant theological challenges made by "Our Hope." Bishop of Rottenburg Georg Moser, for example, accused the theology of "Our Hope" of being "exquisite" but "unintelligible" to most Catholics. (98) In "Our Hope" and in the rest of his theology, Metz used such familiar language and concepts as hope, suffering, history, community, and meaning, which we expect to understand easily. But, the appearance of simplicity masks the way that these concepts significantly displace more traditional emphases such as faith, providence, and revelation. Further, there are both great inspiration and tremendous tension in the way that "Our Hope" confronts the history of the Shoah by focusing on the hope of the Church as a hope grounded in Jesus Christ. For Metz, this tension fueled an innovative theological trajectory in his long career after "Our Hope," as he has tried to remain grounded in the central hope of the Church, while continually challenging and expanding the boundaries of the community of the Church. However, he has had few dialogue partners to move forward this kind of theological change grounded in interreligious concerns.

The claims of Metz and the synod are bold even today, and the postShoah renewal process that they initiated should be reawakened. In a modern world that still tends to see the life of the Church as nothing more than dried-up words and worn-out forms, the synod's challenge to the Church to live as a community of hope and a community of meaning--set free by its willingness to confess its own sinfulness and guilt--should still call us to renewal today. The contemporary Catholic Church is only slowly beginning to confess its own sins. "Our Hope" insists that serious self-examination and repentance are at the heart of the whole Church, not just the lives of its individual members. The modern world continues to encourage individuals to excuse themselves from guilt and responsibility, to hope only to fulfill their own needs and to walk numbly into the future, letting all suffering and death fall into the forgetfulness of the past. The Church must dare to reflect deeply on its own guilt, not shy away from the pain of this confession or the difficult work of transformation, because of its hope in God. Similarly, the Church must continue to face the suffering and the dead, present and past, to mourn for them, and to cry out for justice and a future for them because of our shared hope in God.

With so much suffering continuing in the world, Christian-Jewish relations and the Shoah are sometimes treated as if they are no longer priorities for theological discussion. Time has passed, but few Christians have gained any critical theological awareness of the Antisemitism in the Christian tradition or of the dangers of interpreting Christ's cross as a history that puts Christians at the center of God's concern and demands very little from them in terms of the injustices they witness around them. As the world starts to forget the Shoah and its victims, the Church must increase the call to remember. "Our Hope" asks the Church to be the counterweight to all the forgetfulness, self-centeredness, self-protection, and self-exculpation that helped give license to and support for a regime focused on genocide. This call is still extremely relevant: The Church must confront its own need for repentance and forgiveness; the Church must live in hope for all others, with no group excluded; and the Church must dare to face, in action and in prayer, the darkness of meaningless suffering, injustice, and death, even at the risk of its own life.

The synod itself is a hope-filled witness to the reality that the Church can, "through dialogue without any taboo," confess its failures and draw newly on its resources to live as a concrete community of hope and meaning. (99) The synod in the German Church is a rich part of the renewal inspired by the work of Vatican II and the decision to confront the hopes and fears of the modern world. Although for many decades after the council, the official Church seemed to retreat from change, renewal has recently returned. Pope Francis is energizing the language of hope, spreading the call for solidarity with those who are suffering, and calling on the Church to free itself from fearfulness and self-centeredness. Reminiscent of the critique in "Our Hope" of a Christian-centered reading of the cross, Francis recently emphasized that the Church's reaction to violence should not be to lock the church doors but to open them "to let the Lord enter or, many times, let out the 'prisoner' Lord of our structures, of our selfishness." (100)

I would like to see the work of the synod and Metz's post -Shoah theology be included in this reawakening. We need to dare to confront and remember the histories of suffering (including those such as the Shoah that are also histories of guilt) in order to refuse to be satisfied with the way the world is, to recognize our need for God and for community with all those who long for God. The Church, living out its other-centered hope, must stand up for justice for all, stretching the boundaries of the human community toward the radical new future that only God can give.

Janice A. Thompson (Episcopalian) holds a B.A. from St.John's College, Annapolis, MD; an M.A. from Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA; and a Ph.D. in systematic theology (2005) from the University of Notre Dame (IN). She has taught at King's College, Wilkes-Barre, PA, since 2005, presently as an associate professor and chair of the Theology Dept. She was a visiting assistant professor at Notre Dame in 2004-05. Her articles have appeared in Teaching Theology and Religion and Modern Theology and as a chapter in Mary Doak and Anita Houck, eds., Translating Religion (Orbis, 2012). Her reviews have appeared in She has presented papers at conferences and professional meetings across the U.S. and has participated in numerous campus and community presentations and workshops.

(1) Translations from Unsere Hoffnung are my own, made in consultation with the E.T. See Bischofliche Ordinariate und das Sekretariat der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz, Unsere Hoffnung: Ein Beschluss der Gemeinsamen Synod der Bistumer in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Synodenbeschliisse 18 (Bonn, 197s), pp. 2-24; tr. the WCC Language Service as "Our Hope: A Confession of Faith for This Time," Study Encounter, vol. 12, nos. 1-2 (1976), pp. 65-87. The full set of documents from the synod is also now available at the German Bishops' Conference website. I use this version especially for the accompanying commentary: Gemeinsame Synod der Bistiimer in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Beschliisse der Vollversammlung, Offizielle Gesamtausgabe 1 (Freiburg: Herder, 1976); available at bandi/synode.pdf. Translations from this and other German sources herein are my own.

(2) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 7; "Our Hope," p. 69.

(3) "Gaudium et Spes," in Austin Flannery, ed., Vatican Council II: Constitutions, Decrees, Declarations (New York: Costello Publishing Co., 1996), pp. 163 and 165.

(4) German Bishops, "Opportunity to Re-examine Relationships with the Jews," in National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Catholics Remember the Holocaust (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 1998), pp. 10-11.

(5) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 8; "Our Hope," pp. 70-71.

(6) Metz developed the theology of "Our Hope" after the synod. Chapter 2 of his book, Followers of Christ: Perspectives on the Religious Life, tr. Thomas Linton (New York: Paulist Press, 1978), is nearly all commentary on "Our Hope." Two major articles on Auschwitz followed soon after the synod: Johann Baptist Metz, "Christians and Jews after Auschwitz," in his The Emergent Church: The Future of Christianity in a Post-Bourgeois World, tr. Peter Mann (New York: Crossroad, 1981); and idem, "Facing the Jews: Christian Theology after Auschwitz," in The Holocaust as Interruption, Concilium 175 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1984). Metz included the whole document as an appendix in his more recent Mystik der Offenen Augen: Wenn Spirituality aufbricht (Freiburg: Herder, 2011).

(7) Authorities in East Germany would not allow bishops to participate in the conference. The bishops in the East did meet separately to address their pastoral needs, but they did not establish a separate conference that would suggest that they accepted the division of Germany. After reunification, a papal decree established that the German Bishops' Conference included both the former West and the East. See "History of the German Bishops' Conference," Deutsche Bischofskonferenz (2014), at ueber-uns/geschichte-dbk/.

(8) Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church: Christus Dominus, in Flannery, Vatican Council II, p. 311.

(9) Ibid., p.293.

(10) This lay apostolate in the German Church is similar to Catholic Action, but it has worked more seamlessly with the Church in pursuing social and political action. See "Central Committee of German Catholics" and "The Catholic Church in Germany," Deutsche Bischofskonferetiz (2014), at kirche/zdk/ and, respectively.

(11) Florian Kluger provided an overview of the text and process of the synod: Florian Kluger, "Stationen im Detail," Wurzburger katholisches Sonntagsblatt, no. 43 (October 23, 2005), p. 30; available at

(12) Benjamin Ziemann discussed opinion polling in conjunction with the West German Catholic Church's approach to modernity in his book, Encounters with Modernity: The Catholic Church in West Germany, 1945-1975, Studies in German History 17, tr. Andrew Evans (New York: Berghahn Books, 2014), pp. 157 and 269.

(13) Kluger, "Stationen im Detail," p. 30.

(14) Ibid.

(15) Ibid., pp. 156 and 173.

(16) This is the argument of chap. 3 of my dissertation; see Janice Allison Thompson, "Theodicy in a Political Key: God and Suffering in the Post-Shoah Theology of Johann Baptist Metz" (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Notre Dame, 2004), pp. 103-180.

(17) Karl Lehmann, "Allgemeine Einleitung," in Gemeinsame Synod, pp. 21-70 (see n. 1, above).

(18) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 3, "Our Hope," p. 65 (using Vulgate translation).

(19) Ibid.

(20) Theodor Schneider, "Unsere Hoffnung: Ein Bekenntnis zum Glauben in dieser Zeit: Einleitung," in Gemeinsame Synod, p. 71.

(21) Lehman noted a few events that intensified questions about how the Church related to the modern world. The publication of Pope Paul Vi's encyclical, Humanae Vitae (1968), presented a traditional Church standing against the changes of the modern world, and one of the newly formed national councils of bishops, the Dutch Pastoral Council, rejected it (1969). Meanwhile, military conflicts were escalating in Biafra and Vietnam; Russia invaded Czechoslovakia; and protests by students and young people were growing (see Lehmann, "Allgemeine Einleitung," pp. 31-32).

(22) Hans Kundnani here took the words of Gudrun Ensslin, a literature student who argued that the killing of another student protester by police could only be answered with violence; see Hans Kundnani, Utopia or Auschwitz: Germany's 1968 Generation and the Holocaust, Crises in World Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), pp. 8-9.

(23) Ibid., p. 9.

(24) Ibid., p. 25.

(25) Ibid., p. 31.

(26) Ibid.

(27) Ibid., p. 11.

(28) Joseph Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs, 1927-1977, tr. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1998), p. 137.

(29) For Metz on the centrality of the theodicy question, see his "Theology as Theodicy?" in Johann Baptist Metz, A Passion for God: The Mystical-Political Dimension of Christianity, tr. J. Matthew Ashley (New York: Paulist Press, 1998), pp. 54-71.

(30) For a good example of this concern, see chap. 7, "Redemption and Emancipation," in Metz's central work, Faith in History and Society: Toward a Practical Fundamental Theology, tr. David Smith (New York: Crossroad, 1980), pp. 119-135. This chapter is the revision of an article originally published in 1973, when the dialogue with Marxism shaped Metz's work and before his work with the synod added new directions; see Metz, Faith in History and Society, p. 133, n. 1.

(31) Unsere Hoff nung,p. 5; "Our Hope," p. 68.

(32) Ratzinger, Milestones, pp. 137-138.

(33) Ibid. p. 137.

(34) Wolfgang Seibel, "Die Deutsche Synod--vergangen und vergessen? Im Gesprach mit Andreas R. Batlogg S.J.," Stimmen derZeit (January, 2011), p. 10 of the online version; available at rag=2675426&query_start=10&k_produkt=2675107.

(35) While the focus on such hope characterizes the whole document, there are points where the synod resisted Metz's reform-minded approach, such as when they replaced his original subtitle, "The Power of the Gospels to Shape the Future," with "A Confession of Faith in This Time." Elisabeth Esch discussed Metz's draft and the major changes that were made to it by the synod in her Unsere HojfnungEin Bekenntnis zum Glauben in dieser Zeit: Entstehung und Inhalt des Beschlusstextes der Wiirburger Synode im Vergleich mit Johann Baptist Metz Vorlagendokument "Unsere Hoffnung--Die Kraft des Evangeliums zur Gestaltung der Zunkunft" (Norderstedt: GRIN, 2011), p. 4.

(36) I have translated these terms literally in order to maintain the tight syntax of the German text, where words and compound words are built from a small group of central concepts, including especially community, history, suffering, hope, meaning, and meaninglessness. Unsere Hoffnung, p. 3; "Our Hope," p.66.

(37) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 4; "Our Hope," p. 67.

(38) As translated in "Our Hope," p. 67.

(39) Unsere Hoffnung, pp. 4-5; "Our Hope," p. 67.

(40) One can see Karl Rahner's approach to the name of God as the foundation for Metz's own (along with Metz's special concern to emphasize instead concrete histories of suffering) by comparing this section to Rahner's "Meditation on the Word 'God,'" in his Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity, tr. William V. Dych (New York: Crossroad, 1984).

(41) Unsere Hojfnung, pp. 4-5; "Our Hope," p. 67.

(42) Ibid.

(43) Michael B. McGarry studied this issue in detail in his Christology after Auschwitz (New York: Paulist Press, 1977), although "Our Hope" is not one of the Church statements he surveyed.

(44) Esch, Unsere Hoffhung--Ein Bekenntnis zum Glauben in dieserZeit, p. 11.

(45) Emphasizing the continuity between the hope of Christians and Jews is one of the trends of Metz's theology that emerged after "Our Hope" and has grown in intensity over the years. An important marker in this path is Metz's article, "Theology as Theodicy?" in which he named his focus on the suffering a focus on "the theodicy question" and to Jewish and Christian roots in biblical Israel as grounded in a "landscape of cries" (Metz, "Theology as Theodicy?" pp. 55 and 66). This is a departure from a more christological focus, such as that of Metz's book published shortly after the synod, Followers of Christ.

(46) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Dominus Iesus: On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church," August 6, 2000; available at doc 20000806 dominus-iesus en.html.

(47) Ibid., no. 10.

(48) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 5; "Our Hope," 68.

(49) Unsere Hoffnung, pp. 5-6; "Our Hope," pp. 68-69.

(50) Ibid.

(51) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 7; "Our Hope," p. 69.

(52) The list of histories of sufferings seems to be an addition to Metz's draft. When Metz quoted the passage, he deleted the list (Metz, "Christians and Jews after Auschwitz," p. 24).

(53) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 7; "Our Hope," p. 69

(54) Ibid.

(55) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 8; "Our Hope," p. 70

(56) Ibid.

(57) Unsere Huffnung, pp. 7-8; "Our Hope, p. 71

(58) Unsere Huffnung, pp. 8; "Our Hope," p. 71

(59) Unsere Huffnung, pp. 8-9; "Our Hope," p. 71

(60) Unsere Huffnung, pp. 11; "Our Hope," p. 73

(61) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 9; "Our Hope," p. 72.

(62) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 10; "Our Hope," p. 72.

(63) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 11; "Our Hope," p. 73.

(64) Unsere Hoffnung, pp. 10-11; "Our Hope," p. 73.

(65) Ibid.

(66) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 13; "Our Hope," p. 75.

(67) Unsere Huffnung, pp. 14-15; "Our Hope," p. 76-77

(68) Ibid.

(69) Ibid.

(70) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 16; "Our Hope," p. 78.

(71) Ibid.

(72) Ibid.

(73) The synod document describes hope with an image of the four directions of the cross as the source from which hope gains its "height and depth, its way and its future" (Unsere Hoffnung, p. 16; "Our Hope," p. 79).

(74) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 17; "Our Hope," p. 79.

(75) Ibid.

(76) Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger with Vittorio Messori, The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church, tr. Salvator Attanasio and Graham Harrison (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1985), p. 51.

(77) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 18; "Our Hope," pp. 80-81.

(78) Ibid.

(79) Ibid.

(80) Esch, Unsere Hojffnung--Ein Bekenntnis zum Glauben in dieser Zeit, p. 23.

(81) Ibid., pp. 23-24 and 26.

(82) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 22; "Our Hope," p. 84.

(83) Ibid.

(84) Ibid.

(85) Ibid.

(86) The word here (Schuldnern) returns to the idea in Part II that the Church is in debt (a word etymologically related to the word for guilt) for failing to live concretely in history in hope for others, as it was called to do: "Und was wir ihr schulden, istdies: DasDefizit an anschaulich gelebter Hoffnung auszugleichen" (Unsere Hoffnung, p. 16; "Our Hope," p. 79).

(87) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 22; "Our Hope," pp. 84-85.

(88) Metz's later theology speaks of this more as "crying out" to God, as in his use of Nelly Sachs's phrase, "landscape of cries," in, e.g., Metz, "Theology as Theodicy?" p. 66.

(89) See, e.g., Ekkehard Schuster and Reinhold Boschert-Kimming, eds., "Hope against Hope": Johann Baptist Metz and Elie Wiesel Speak out on the Holocaust (New York: Paulist Press, 1999), p. 15.

(90) The text originally also included practical suggestions to improve relations, but in the discussion the importance of the guilty plea was the focus, and the suggestions were removed as inadequate. See Esch, Unsere Hotfnung--Ein Bekenntnis zum Glauben in dieser Zeit, p. 24.

(91) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 6; "Our Hope," p. 69.

(91) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 24; "Our Hope," p. 86.

(93) Unsere Hoffnung, p. 24; "Our Hope," p. 87--quoting Rev. 21:4-5, N.R.S.V.

(94) Lehmann, "Allgemeine Einleitung," p. 56.

(95) Ziemann, Encounters with Modernity, p. 271.

(96) Metz, "Theology as Theodicy?" p. 54.

(97) See the "Epilogue" to Metz, The Emergent Church, pp. 119-124.

(98) Florian Kluger and Nadine Ortmanns, "Der Text was es wert verteidigt zu warden," in Wurzburger katholisches Sonntagsblatt 45 (November, 2005): 30-31.

(99) Batlogg, in Seibel, "Die Deutsche Synode--vergangen und vergessen?" p. 14.

(100) Joshua McElwee, "Francis Cries out for Welcoming Church: 'House of God Refuge, Not Prison,'" National Catholic Reporter online, November 18, 2015; available at
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Author:Thompson, Janice A.
Publication:Journal of Ecumenical Studies
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Jun 22, 2016
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