Pope encourages German Church’s synodal process

Pope Francis has written a letter applauding the German Church’s synodal journey and urging it to emphasise the centrality of the Holy Spirit in ecclesial renewal.

The Church needs spiritual renewal, not just structural, he wrote as the Germany’s Catholics prepare to embark on a synodal process.

“We are all aware that we are living not only in an age of change but also of epochal change that raises new and old questions which call for a justified and necessary debate,” he wrote in a letter published by the Vatican last Saturday.

“You would have a good ecclesial body that is well organized and even ‘modernised’ but without soul and evangelical newness; we would live a ‘gaseous’ Christianity without evangelical bite.”

Trying to eliminate tension just by “being in order and in harmony” would “numb and domesticate the heart of our people and diminish and even silence the vital and evangelical strength the Spirit wants to give us,” he wrote.

In a study released in September last year, the German bishops identified three themes for the syndoal process to examine: sexual abuse by the clergy and religious; issues such as the lack of vocations and the non-acceptance of Catholic teaching on sexuality; and the lifestyle of priests.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, has pledged to create “formats for open debates” and to “bind [the German church] to proceedings that facilitate a responsible participation of women and men from our dioceses”.

Noting the synodal path is a process that must be guided by the Holy Spirit with patience, the Pope warned that it does not involve a “search for immediate results that generate quick and immediate consequences but are ephemeral due to the lack of maturity or because they do not respond to the vocation to which we are called.”

He also noted that true transformation cannot be made as a “reaction to external data or demands”.

The Church “seeks to live and make the Gospel transparent and breaks with the gray pragmatism of the daily life of the church in which everything proceeds normally but in reality, faith wears out and degenerates into pettiness,” Francis wrote.

“True transformation responds to and calls for demands that are born of our being believers and of the church’s own evangelising dynamic.”

In his view, it calls for “pastoral conversion,” with a central aim of evangelisation. In addition, ensuring the Spirit is central to the process will shape the way debates are conducted.

“The synodal vision does not eliminate contradictions or confusion,” he said.

“Evangelisation lived in this way is not a tactic of repositioning the Church in today’s world” or “an attempt to recover habits and practices that make sense in other cultural contexts.

“It is true, there are hard times, times of the cross, but nothing can destroy the supernatural joy, which adapts, transforms and always remains,” he said.

The Church’s primary concern must be to share this joy with others, he said, especially those “who are lying on the doorstep of our churches, in the streets, in prisons and hospitals, squares and cities”.

With the rise of xenophobia, indifference and individualism, the pope added, the Church must connect with those who suffer and “awaken in our communities, especially in young people, the passion for his kingdom.”


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