German church’s reform is not “too Protestant” says bishop

The German bishops’ conference president has criticised Vatican officials who regard the German Church’s reform dialogue as “too Protestant” and threatening to church unity.

“For many Vatican officials, the German Catholic Church smells Protestant,” Bishop Georg Bätzing said in an online round table discussion.

This did not apply “to top level Vatican officials like prefects [of congregations]”, he clarified.

Rather, he said concerns were for Roman officials who had no experience of the German Church. “It makes their hair stand on end or they get goose bumps,” he suggested.

Bätzing said the underlying reason for the officials’ fear of the German Church’s reform was their awareness of how difficult it was to maintain unity between the many different cultures in the Catholic Church.

“However, one can also endanger church unity by fostering certain elements that are ill-suited for a multi-cultural world in a culturally diverse era,” Bätzing warned.

He recalled that Pope Francis had repeatedly said decisions concerning doctrine and canon law must be arrived at from the periphery and that the Church could not be governed centrally.

“That is the route we are trying take,” he explained.

Three weeks before Germany’s third Ecumenical Kirchentag, Bätzing said he wanted to promote further unity with the German Protestant Church.

“We want to take further steps towards unity”, he explained at the online round table. Others participating in the discussion included the chairman of the German Protestant Church (EKD), Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm.

The Kirchentag would clarify this he said, during the Protestant celebrations of the Lord’s Supper and the Catholic celebrations of the Eucharist.

“Protestants who come up to [Catholic] communion will be able to receive communion,” he said.

Anyone whose conscience told them that it was Jesus Christ who was inviting them to partake of the Eucharist, would not be “turned away,” he explained.

This understanding of the Eucharist “is being practised all over the country” and is “actually nothing new”, Bätzing said.

The new part of this is that it is now being spoken about. Bätzing said he does “not expect Rome to object.”

He has repeatedly said he would give individual Protestants the Eucharist if they sought it.

While a general invitation to receive the Catholic Eucharist is not permitted, it is important to show respect for the personal decision of conscience of a person who seeks communion, he said.


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