Bonn · Just in time for World Children's Day, the Wesseling artist Dennis Josef Meseg has caused a stir with an installation on the Münsterplatz in Bonn. 333 children's mannequins stretch their arms in the direction of the church.
While white stands for innocence, the colour purple symbolises confession and repentance in the Catholic Church. Meseg's point is not to condemn the Church per se, but to accuse individuals who have committed offences against children. "They wear the same vestments as their brothers in the faith, have studied the same Scriptures and pledged eternal allegiance to the same God. Yet their hands bestow no blessing, and their words give no comfort. They are the evil that is wreaking havoc in the house of the Lord, tormenting people and mocking God by disobeying His commandments," he said. He said believers left the church by the thousands, with their children by the hand, entering as joyful young Christians and returning as broken souls.
Throughout the 2023 World Youth Day, Meseg had placed his child figures in front of Cologne Cathedral. "The reactions of passers-by were predominantly positive," said Meseg. However, there had also been some critical voices pointing out that cases of abuse also occurred in other places in society, such as in sports clubs. Some priests had also contacted him and welcomed his action.
However, there was no reaction from Cardinal Woelki or the Church. Meseg: "They are just sitting out the problem. That's exactly how they sat out the action." But at least Domradio was there and reported. On Wednesday, there were further protests against Cardinal Woelki. Several Catholic priests celebrated a blessing ceremony for same-sex couples.
City deacon Wolfgang Picken does not want the warning to be understood only in the direction of the church: "The artwork wants to sensitise people to the fact that abuse happens everywhere. It can only be prevented if everyone looks attentively and a culture of attentiveness and transparency is created." So the figures would be on Münsterplatz, "right in the middle of our city and in front of the basilica. I hope it has a good effect and helps to protect children and young people," said Picken.
On Münsterplatz, the passers-by also stop and read on the displays what it is all about. Many pull out cameras or mobile phones. "At first, we thought it had to do with World Children's Day," said Sonja Balegh, who was on Münsterplatz with a friend. "I didn't catch the church reference at first glance."
A little further on, an amateur photographer experimented with photographing the installation and the Münster through a small crystal ball. "I find that very interesting," she said. It would also draw attention to the subject matter once again.
For pensioner Wilfried Braun, the topic is highly topical. "The diocese of Essen has just made the allegations of abuse against Cardinal Hengsbach public. This is a good and timely action, especially on World Children's Day.“
Installation to be dismantled in the evening
In the evening, the installation will be dismantled at 6 pm. "I have my own team of seven to eight people who help out. But even so, it takes us three hours to set up and take down," said Meseg.
This Thursday and again on Friday, they will start setting up again at 6 a.m. on the occasion of the 24th Family Court Day. This action will then take place in cooperation with the federal initiative for the implementation of the Istanbul Convention "Women for Protection against Violence“.
When Meseg has packed up his "Shattered Souls" on Friday evening, it will be straight on. "Next week they will be in the centre of Wiesbaden for five days - near the Bishops' Conference," he says.
Blessing service for same-sex couples in Cologne
There will be further protests against Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki this Wednesday in Cologne: several Catholic priests will celebrate a blessing service for same-sex couples in front of Cologne Cathedral.
(Original text: Benjamin Westhoff; Translation: Mareike Graepel)