Bishop Heiner Koch is a Rheinlander who has always remained in his own state, in the lovely cities of Duesseldorf, Bonn and Cologne. As Auxliliary Bishop of Cologne, he had a happy and fruitful apostolate among his own people in what is the largest archdiocese of Germany with over three million Catholics. Thus when Pope Benedict appointed him Bishop of Dresden-Meissen, one of the smallest and most secularised dioceses, it came to him as a shock.
Dresden is a famous city in the former East Germany which was secularised during the forty years of Communist rule. Most of the few Catholics there kept the faith despite persecution, under the able guidance of great bishops like Bl Clemens von Galen, Dopfner and Meissner. Unfortunately, the greater part of the Evangelical Christians lost their faith.
When Domradio of Cologne interviewed Bishop Koch about his new appointment, he replied: "It was an absolute surprise. However, I accepted the appointment with joy because the diocese has enormous chances. In numbers – just 150,000 Catholics – it is a tiny diocese compared to Cologne, but there are three million unbaptised to reach out to.
"There are some good starting-points like the seven student communities, many prestigious schools and universites in Dresden and Leipzig, and the internet-apostolate. In this Year of Faith, we will cast our nets into the deep and, with God's help, they will be filled."
EDWARD P. EVANS (FR)