Germany’s synodal way gets the nod from pope

The German Catholic Church’s synodal way has been approved by Pope Francis, says German bishops’ conference president Bishop Georg Bätzing .

After meeting with Francis on Saturday, Bätzing said he felt “strengthened by the intensive exchange with the Holy Father to continue on the path we have taken.

“The pope appreciates this project, which he associates closely with the concept of ‘synodality’ which he coined.”

“It was a matter of concern to me to make it clear that the Church in Germany is following this path and always knows that she is bound to the universal Church.”

Bätzing traveled to the Vatican on Saturday, the day after figures were released showing the Catholic Church in Germany lost a record number of members in 2019.

The statistics showed 272,771 people left the Church last year. In 2018, 216,078 people left the Church in Germany.

In Bätzing’s diocese of Limburg, 9,439 people left the Church in 2019 – 1,459 more than in 2018.

“We must find answers to urgent challenges facing the Church, ranging from coming to terms with sexual abuse of minors to the dramatic numbers of people leaving the Church,” Bätzing said on Saturday.

Bätzing says a 28-page letter Francis wrote this time last year to “the pilgrim people of God of the Church in Germany encouraged them and gave indications … he will continue to accompany us attentively.”

The letter was prompted by the German bishops’ decision to launch a two-year synodal way. This would bring together lay people and bishops to discuss four main topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.

The German bishops initially said the process would end with a series of “binding” votes. This raised concerns at the Vatican that the resolutions might challenge the Church’s teaching and discipline.

In his letter, Francis suggested synodal way participants faced a particular “temptation.”

“At the basis of this temptation, there is the belief that the best response to the many problems and shortcomings that exist is to reorganize things, change them and ‘put them back together’ to bring order and make ecclesial life easier by adapting it to the current logic or that of a particular group,” he wrote.

Other topics Bätzing and Francis discussed in their private audience included the situation of the Church in Germany, the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The first synodal assembly took place in Frankfurt at the end of January. The second meeting is expected to go ahead despite the pandemic in September.

Francis urged the synodal way and the German Church to be attentive to the poor, the elderly, refugees and others in need, according to a press statement issued by the German Bishops’ Conference after Bätzing’s audience.

Francis also “specifically asked that the implications and experiences of the coronavirus pandemic be considered as we continue to move forward,” says Bätzing.


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