Alone among bishops: Beate Gilles introduces herself
Her appointment as secretary general of the German Bishops' Conference (DBK) attracted a lot of attention on Monday: Beate Gilles is the first woman to hold this office; all of the 50-year-old's predecessors were clerics.
Stefan von Kempis
Source: Vatican News
But the person who has been responsible for children, youth and family issues in the Limburg diocese is taking things in calmly. She wants, she said at her first press appearance, “to stand up for the Church” – even if the Catholic Church in Germany is currently going through a difficult phase.
On the website of the German Bishops’ Conference DBK, Beate Gilles introduces herself in a video – first with her previous task in the diocese of Limburg, which she has fulfilled for eleven years.
“Previously, I was a bit further south, namely in Stuttgart in educational work. But I originally grew up on the Rhine, so I already feel at home here in Bonn. I grew up south of Düsseldorf and then studied here in Bonn. So that is, very roughly, my life path”, Gilles explained.
She studied Catholic religious education and German; she then earned her doctorate under Albert Gerhards (liturgical studies). She was a freelancer for the Catholic television work of the ZDF, directed the Katholisches Bildungswerk Stuttgart, and has voluntarily led the association “In Via” for Catholic social work with girls and women since 2020. Quite a colorful curriculum.
“I’m not running away, I want to help design.”
“The competence that I bring with me is a great diversity, because I was simply already responsible for many topics in our diocese (Limburg) and also have a great breadth of experience from the educational work I performed. I have always been someone who was broadly positioned. I think that is an important competence – in addition to the leadership experience that I have already gained in the Limburg diocese. My department is relatively large; that means a lot of personnel responsibility, which I’m familiar with, and also with shaping processes. It’s important for me to advance issues, to set priorities”, the new secretary said.
“I’m not running away, but want to help design,” said Beate Gilles in a first interview with Catholic News Agency. She first has to familiarize herself with the current state of the church’s reform process, the Synodal Way. Her impression is that the Synodal Way depends very much on a “careful preparation of the discussion situations” – and “that one is at different stages in the synodal forums.” The future Secretary General of the Bishops’ Conference, who is unmarried, has already signalled some understanding for the concerns of “Mary 2.0.” Otherwise, Gilles also wants to tie in with her previous Limburg topic area
The office will change…
“In terms of content, I now bring advocacy for the area of children, youth and family. I’ve always found that to be a totally beautiful range of topics! I have always said that accompanying people through the phases of their lives from the cradle to the grave and seeing what we as a Church can do there – that has been my daily bread, so to speak, for over eleven years in Limburg. As a Church, we have very, very good offers, and we no longer say that family and education are something marginal. In the diocese of Limburg, we have not separated pastoral care and education, but rather this is the core business of our Church commitment, and I bring this perspective with me”, she said.
Father Hans Langendörfer has already congratulated her in writing: The Jesuit led the secretariat of the Bishops’ Conference for almost a quarter of a century, with which the management of the Association of German Dioceses (VDD) is also connected. “With me as a woman, the office of secretary general will definitely change,” Beate Gilles states confidently.
“It’s certainly a little bit of a cultural change.”
Expressing her ideas about continuing the work of her predecessor, she expressed: “I don’t think that has anything to do with me as a woman. Father Langendörfer was here in the organization for a very long time; the organization has changed, he helped to shape it… I am now simply looking forward to being able to continue this. At the same time I will certainly stumble at one point or another, because I don’t know about some cultures in the house. It will be noticed; I believe there are enough people here who will then draw my attention to it, and then we will find ways together. It may also continue to change! I would like to contribute my part to this. But I am not alone in this. I am one who plays a role in this game (certainly not an insignificant one), but it is only possible in a joint team, and there is a strong team here with the area managers. So… I’m going to build on that”.
As she revealed to the press on Monday, she is an “endurance athlete.” She will be able to put her endurance to good use in her new job.