The plenary assembly of the Bishops' Conference of Tedesca (Dbk), which took place from March 7 to 10 in Vierzehnheiligen, was characterized mainly by two themes: the war in Ukraine and the synodal journey. The Assembly was attended by the co-presidents of the four "synodal forums", as well as Thomas Söding, vice-president of the "Central Committee of the Catholics of Toledo", in turn vice-president of the synodal process. The president of the DBK, Msgr. Georg Bätzing, has justified the presence of the laity in the Episcopal Assembly saying that even here "synodality must be practiced".
With regard to the invasion of Ukraine, Bishop Bätzing said that it is trying to break the power of a "legitimate government", which is why it is an action "contrary to international law" and the world cannot be a mere spectator.
Instead, the "Cologne question" took center stage, following the return of Cardinal Rainer Woelki to the diocese after the four months of reflection that the Holy Father had asked for. The situation in the diocese is complicated, so the cardinal has once again placed his continuity in the hands of the Pope. In the opening address of the Plenary Assembly, Msgr. Georg Bätzing has affirmed to the Pope and to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Blessed Virgin Mary, Cardinal Marc Ouellet: "The responsibility now is theirs and we cannot aspire to the long term".
During the opening Mass of the assembly, Msgr. Bätzing referred to the fact that being Catholic means "living in solidarity, not a confessional narrow-mindedness, nor isolationism or the creation of an identity based on the definition of boundaries"; to achieve this objective "we still have to overcome many barriers, daring to change some ways of thinking that until now were valid".
Cardinal Reinhard Marx has followed this same line in the omelia: now the question of the "authentic Church" is put in a new way, in which it is not only about dogmas.
"A che giova - ha proseguito Marx - una professione di fede limpidamente netta e dogmatica se poi nella pratica si appoggia una dittatura?".
Intanto il Nunzio Apostolico, Msgr. Nikola Eterović, following the line traced by Pope Francis for the ecumenical synod, has exhorted.
a "discernere lo spirito dei tempi" e ha espressamente ricordato la lettera che il Santo Padre ha scritto "al popolo di Dio pellegrino in Germania" nel 2019.
In relation to the synodal journey - as Msgr. Bätzing at the final press conference, on March 10 - the Plenary Assembly of the DBK has dealt with the "theological foundations" in two aspects: ecclesiology and anthropology.
Alla domanda di uno dei giornalisti presenti, mons. Bätzing, was explained in more detail: in the ecclesiology section the question of the sacramental ordination of women has been discussed; as already on other occasions, the President of the DBK has remarked that in this field there is a "very clear limit", because in Germany it is not possible to make decisions on the merits, but rather "the decisions will be placed at the disposal of the universal Church".
As far as the anthropology section is concerned, he stated that there are many debates about what natural law means; specifically, referring to the "polarity of the sexes", he said that "reality shows that there are other identities between the two partners, man and woman". According to Msgr. Bätzing this fact is essential to consider how to treat people who live a relationship with a person of the same sex. For this reason "the doctrine of the Catechism is differentiated and developed, also because it does not say anything in relation to transsexuals". For this reason he concluded that "the instruments [of the Catechism] are no longer sufficient".
One of the fundamental questions that the Vescovii Assembly has faced is how to proceed to implement the resolutions of the synodal journey; for example, during the autumn, the first reading of a "basic regulation" for people who work in ecclesiastical organizations is planned; to this end, the president of the DBK has asked himself in a press conference: "how should we behave with those people who do not share our faith, for example with the Muslims who work in the nest homes or in the residences managed by the Church?".
Ebbene, it is of course that there is no longer the triple coincidence of a Catholic organization, in which work exclusively Catholics and which is exclusively devoted to Catholics. In other words: at the same time the "personal loyalty" to the Catholic doctrine will no longer be required.
One of the controversial issues already dealt with in the Assembly of the Synodal Way is the creation of a "Synodal Council" to follow the status of implementation of the resolutions once the Synodal Way itself has been completed; for example, some of the participants have insisted on the fact that this council should be composed of bishops, priests and laity, who would decide, for example, on the election of the bishops, and would also evaluate the activity; it would be, therefore, a way of controlling the episcopal activity.
In general, Msgr. Bätzing emphasized - as he had already done on other occasions - that the resolutions of the synodal journey will be put into practice at the same time, without waiting for the completion of any of them.
He also emphasized that the decisions do not "bind" the faithful, but that each one is consciously responsible and free to put them into practice in his own diocese.
Ha anche sottolineato che esiste una qualche preoccupazione che ciò presuppone una "atomizzazione" delle diocesi: "Come si sosterrà l'attuazione [delle risoluzioni del cammino sinodale] nelle diocesi?"
An example of how this support could be implemented was provided by the president of the DBK in response to a request in a press conference: the priest who does not agree to implement a resolution "will have to dialogue with the diocesan leaders and explain why he refuses to do so".
If to this is added the "vigilance" on the part of the "synodal council" it seems that if these proposals go forward the freedom of the young people who do not agree with what is synodically correct will remain a dead letter.
The Episcopal Conference of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Slovakia, Finland and Iceland) is meeting in Tromsø, in the north of Norway, at the same time as the Tedesca Conference.
From there they sent a letter to the tedescan faithful to express their concern: "we are concerned both about the direction that the synodal journey of the Church in Germany is taking, as well as about the methodology and contents".
After having underlined that the issues dealt with are not specific to Germany, but are the same all over the world, the same letter specifies that they refer to the universal synod convoked by Pope Francis: "This process requires a radical conversion. We must first of all rediscover and communicate the promises of Jesus as a source of joy, freedom and renewal.
Our duty is to make our own, with gratitude and respect, the depositum fidei entrusted to us by the Church".
The nine young Norwegians reminded the tedescan brothers of the direction that any process of reform of the Church must take: "The true reforms of the Church always consist in defending and clarifying Catholic doctrine based on divine revelation and authentic tradition and putting it into practice in a credible way, not following the spirit of the times. The expiration of the spirit of the times is conferred every day".
Sottolineano inoltreano che "la Chiesa non può essere definita solo come una società visibile. It is a mystery of communion: communion of humanity with God one and triune; communion of the faithful with each other; communion of the local Churches of the whole world with the Successor of Peter". It is the second Episcopal Conference - the letter sent a few weeks earlier by the Polish Episcopal Conference - which officially turned to the faithful of Tedesco to ask to change the direction of the Synodal journey in the sense of an "appeal to radical conversion and sanctity".