More than 130,000 people have so far visited the Protestant congress, or Kirchentag, in the German capital, organizers said on Friday, with 140,000 visitors in all expected to have attended the event by the time it ends on Sunday.
This time round, the congress, which takes place every two years, is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. It is seeing events with several prominent figures from both the religious and political world, among them former US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US philanthropist Melinda Gates and UN envoy Staffan de Mistura.
Sources from Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), which will be facing off with Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU bloc at elections in September, said the party leadership was not pleased that Merkel had received the chance on Thursday to take to the stage in front of some 70,000 people with Obama, who is still popular with many Germans.
However, the SPD’s top candidate, Martin Schulz, also received his chance to speak in a full Berlin Cathedral on Friday, taking the opportunity to call for a “fair election campaign.” In a generous gesture, he also defended his rival Merkel against Obama’s successor, US President Donald Trump, saying that it was not right for a president to behave like an autocratic ruler and treat the chancellor in “such a humiliating manner.”
Focus on refugees
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, who is also a member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, also appeared at a number of events. Among other things, de Maiziere defended his policy of not allowing family members to be reunited with relatives who have received asylum in Germany, saying that would mean too many people coming to the country.
The entire event was interrupted at 12 noon (1000 UTC) for a minute’s silence to remember the more than 10,000 people who have lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea while…