German bishops pause Synodal Council plans following Vatican intervention

Synodal Council

German bishops have postponed a crucial vote on establishing a Synodal Council following a request from the Vatican.

The council was intended to be a mixed body of laity and bishops governing the Church in Germany. It was scheduled for discussion during a February 19–22 plenary assembly in Augsburg.

Matthias Kopp, spokesperson for the German Bishops Conference (DBK), confirmed on February 17 that the bishops have withdrawn a vote on endorsing a committee responsible for preparing the Synodal Council.

The development comes after the DBK received a letter from the Vatican shortly before the start of the plenary session.

“This letter requests that the General Assembly — also due to upcoming discussions between representatives of the Roman Curia and representatives of the German Bishops’ Conference — not vote on the statutes of the Synodal Committee” Kopp told Germany’s Catholic News Agency (KNA).

Although not explicitly listed on the publicly available agenda, the vote on approving the committee’s formation was widely anticipated during the DBK assembly.

The decision to remove it from the agenda is notable. It marks a rare instance of Vatican pressure influencing the DBK’s progression with a Synodal Way priority since its inception in 2019.

Dialogue with Rome

The DBK chairman, Bishop Georg Bätzing, said the letter’s timing “surprised” him.

At the same time, Bätzing emphasised unity with Rome. He said it was a matter of course to comply with this request “out of respect for the Roman authorities”.

There is a high interest among the bishops in staying in dialogue with the Roman authorities.

“We will use the time to discuss the objections from the Roman side, to derive consequences from them and to prepare the talks” Bätzing said.

“We do not and cannot simply ignore the Roman objection. Now, we need to talk.”

Meanwhile Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna has urged German bishops to heed the Vatican’s warnings and maintain dialogue.

Speaking to “” Schönborn supported Rome’s critique of Germany’s reform plan, including the establishment of a Synodal Council. He also cited concerns over lay involvement conflicting with Church doctrine.

Schönborn further warned against actions leading to schism and urged loyalty to the Pope.

“I am impressed by the patience with which the Pope and the Roman dicasteries are trying to remain in dialogue with the German bishops and maintain unity and communion” the Cardinal emphasised.

The current conflict between the German bishops and Rome is not about “questions of power” or disciplinary issues, Schönborn added.

“Rather, Pope Francis is fulfilling his core task of maintaining unity in the faith” because it is about the “basic understanding of the Church”.


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