As the session began, Bishop Dr. Harald Rein appealed to the synod delegates to see their church’s identity not merely as a theory, but as a living encounter with others. He reported that decisions that should be taken by parishioners at their regular meetings are increasingly passed on to council members, thereby undermining the episcopal-synodical system. In addition, stated Bishop Rein, some individual congregations have begun to lose their understanding of the unity of the diocese and are tending to concentrate on their own needs in terms of personnel, structures and financial matters. This makes it difficult to plan at the diocesan level with the bishop and the synod standing committee. Bishop Rein also talked about church membership growth and the need to integrate and take care of new members. He emphasised that these matters can be successfully tackled only if the Old Catholic Church of Switzerland demonstratively lives out its episcopal-synodical culture of consensus and does not discard it as a relic.
Standing committee elections
In accordance with the church constitution, the entire synod standing committee is re-elected every four years. All the candidates were elected/re-elected with a large majority. One seat in the standing committee remains vacant because a suitable candidate with the required legal background has yet to be found. The retiring members, some of whom have been on the committee for many years, were thanked warmly for their work and dedication.
The synod listened with interest to the professional presentation by youth pastor Antje Kirchhofer and youth worker Miriam Friedli about the new “Plattform Jugend” (youth platform) scheme. They reported on their first projects and their plans for the future, which include a trip to Taizé and a meditational walking tour to Assisi in the autumn. Currently in the planning stage are a general summer camp and camps for confirmation and first communion candidates from all parishes.
Following a lengthy discussion, the synod voted in favour of the Standing Committee’s motion to disband the Diasporawerk organisation, which was set up in 1905 to support activities for Old Catholics living outside the catchment areas of established parishes. This means a pastoral solution must now be found for Old Catholics in those parts of Switzerland that do not belong to a parish. The diaspora regions could be officially incorporated into existing parishes, or individuals could voluntarily join the responsible parishes, depending on the canton. Several items of the church constitution will need to be amended in order to enable Old Catholics in diaspora to be elected to the National Synod. This was a very difficult matter to resolve in view of the highly complex legal and financial questions arising.
Bern, 1 June 2013
Information Officer Old Catholic Church of Switzerland