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German bishops in Rome: Cardinals of the Curia express "concerns and reservations" about the "synodal path".

In the meetings held in Rome during the "ad limina" visit of the German episcopate, there was even a proposal for a "moratorium" on the German process, which was only avoided when the German bishops assured that they would take into account the objections of the Curia. The Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, stresses that what was discussed at the meeting "cannot be ignored in the ongoing process".

José M. García Pelegrín-November 19, 2022-Reading time: 4 minutes
German bishops

Bishops at a Holy Mass in the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano © Deutsche Bischofskonferenz/Matthias Kopp

This week, the German bishops came to the Vatican on their visit to the Vatican. ad liminaThe meeting was the first to be held after the establishment in Germany of a "synodal path" which began in 2019 and which, last September, took a series of decisions openly opposed to the traditional doctrine and discipline of the Church, especially the creation of a "synodal commission", in charge of preparing a Synodal Council and would "coordinate" the work of the Bishops' Conference and the Central Committee of German Catholics. This Council would openly confront the note from the Holy See last July, which recalled that the synodal path "is not empowered to oblige the bishops and the faithful to adopt new forms of government".

The visit of 62 German bishops to Rome, in addition to talks in various dicasteries of the Curia, was marked by a meeting with the Pope on Thursday, and an exceptional "interdicasterial" session on Friday - moderated by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and with the participation of Cardinals Luis Francisco Ladaria, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops - both lasting several hours.

At the end of the "interdicasterial session" a joint communiqué was issued by the Holy See and the German Bishops' Conference, recalling that "the meeting had long been planned as an opportunity to reflect together on the ongoing synodal journey in Germany."

The communiqué also states that Cardinals Ladaria and Ouellet "frankly and clearly expressed their concerns and reservations about the methodology, content and proposals of the synodal journey". Cardinal Ouellet went so far as to propose a "moratorium", a postponement of the synodal journey, which was however rejected.

According to the text, the dialogue between the German bishops and representatives of the Curia revealed "the importance and urgency of defining and deepening some of the issues discussed, for example, those related to the structures of the Church, the sacred ministry and the conditions of access to it, Christian anthropology, etc.". In this context, it is significant what is also affirmed there: "Numerous interventions pointed out the centrality of evangelization and mission as the ultimate goal of the processes underway", since up to now the participants in the synodal journey had refused to speak of "evangelization and mission" in their assemblies.

The communiqué also calls attention to two statements: on the one hand, while recognizing that there are "different positions", it states that there is "an awareness that certain issues cannot be the subject of debate"; on the other hand, the fact that what was discussed in this exchange of ideas "cannot be ignored in the ongoing process".

This is what the Bishop of Passau, Stefan Oster, referred to in a comment posted on his Facebook account, in which he referred to the interdicasterial session as "a very decisive meeting of these days." In summary, he said that the cardinals "made it clear" that some topics are "non-negotiable" and that the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, had "stressed to the German bishops that they must take into account the objections of Rome"; only then would the "moratorium" of the synodal path have been avoided: this "can only go ahead taking into account these objections". Bishop Oster could perceive "a clear disagreement" of both Cardinal Ladaria and Cardinal Ouellet "in relation to the questions, in my opinion, most debated" in the synodal path: anthropology and, as a consequence of this, Christian moral doctrine, but also ecclesiology and in particular "questions about the Church and about access to sacred ministries"; there was also, according to Stefan Oster, a "clear opposition" of Rome to the "recent proposals of Germany" regarding ecumenism.

For his part, the president of the German Bishops' Conference, Bishop Georg Bätzing, held a press conference on Saturday, in which he said that "all the issues had been discussed, especially the question of how evangelization can be achieved in the challenge of a secularized age."

After thanking "that the concerns that exist in Rome have been openly presented" and also "that the concerns and opinions of our Episcopal Conference have been heard on all topics", Bishop Bätzing assured that "the Church in Germany is not going down a special path and will not take any decision that would only be possible in the context of the universal Church". However, he also said that "the Church in Germany wants to and must give answers to those questions that the faithful are asking".

The President of the German Bishops' Conference also referred that "a first moment of reflection" on what was discussed in Rome "will take place at the Permanent Council of the German Bishops' Conference next Monday in Würzburg and, a few days later, at the Presidency of the Synodal Path; of course, the topics will have to be discussed with everyone at the Synodal Path". He also added: "We want to be Catholics, but we want to be Catholics in a different way".

In a comment in Die TagespostIn his article, editor-in-chief Guido Horst stated that all the critical questions of the German process had indeed been put on the table; "but the visit to Rome of the German episcopate did not provide the key to the method by which they should be resolved". This is because "when Francis speaks of synodality, he thinks of listening and discerning in the light of faith; ultimately, for the Pope, this has to do with the Holy Spirit." However, when "the protagonists of the synodal journey" speak of synodality, "they think of structural reforms, expert reports and quick decisions; that is, voting in which the majority makes the decision. There is nothing to suggest that the visit of the German bishops to Rome has changed this fundamental difference in methods."

However, Horst stressed that "Bishop Bätzing hinted on Saturday that the critics of the synodal path among the German bishops could feel reinforced by the representatives of the Roman Curia, especially by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who had even pronounced himself in favor of a moratorium, a temporary suspension of the synodal path. The minority part of the Bishops' Conference will now be able, strengthened by Rome, to speak more clearly and unambiguously".

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