The World

Division in the German Bishops' Conference over the "Synodal Committee".

The Cardinal of Cologne and the Bishops of Eichstätt, Passau and Regensburg are vetoing the planned funding for this committee, which jeopardizes its viability. However, both the president of the DBK and the chairwoman of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) are still holding out November 10 and 11, 2023, for the start of such a committee.

José M. García Pelegrín-June 21, 2023-Reading time: 2 minutes
German bishops

Photo: The German bishops during their last "ad Limina" visit with Pope Francis ©CNS photo/Vatican Media

The meeting of the Permanent Council of the German Bishops' Conference, held on June 19 and 20, revealed the dissent within the Conference. Cardinal Rainer Woelki (Cologne) and Bishops Gregor Maria Hanke (Eichstätt), Stefan Oster (Passau), and Rudolf Voderholzer (Regensburg) issued a statement at noon on Tuesday, June 20, explaining the reasons for their opposition to financing the so-called Synodical CommitteeThe Synod Council.

As is well known, on several occasions various Vatican bodies - especially Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and the then Prefects of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Luis Ladaria, and of the Bishops' Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Luis Ladaria, and of the Bishops' Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Luis Ladaria, Marc OuelletThe letter was addressed, with the Pope's express instruction, on January 16, 2023 to the President of the German Bishops' Conference, Msgr. Georg Bätzing- prohibited the creation of such governing bodies "at the national, diocesan or parish level". This is what the four "dissident" bishops now refer to.

They also recall that during the visit ad limina last November, the German bishops agreed that they would take up the issues raised in the German Synodal Way to deal with them in Rome, but that at no time was there any talk of a new body. "It would not be improbable," they say in their statement, "that a body would now be created whose competencies are not clear, and that in the end we will find out that we cannot do it that way. Before we ask ourselves about new organizational forms in Germany, we would have to wait for the results of the Universal Synod of Synodality.

They also refer to the fact that many decisions of the Synodal Path have caused "uneasiness among many believers around the world: these are profound questions of doctrine, especially the doctrine of the Church, of anthropology and the sacraments. If we were to go ahead here in Germany, the polarization among the faithful in our country, among the bishops and in the interactions of the universal Church would only intensify." While the questions of the Synodal Way are also being addressed in other countries, especially in Western Europe, "everywhere there are voices advocating the maintenance of the current doctrine."

The titular bishops of the other 23 German dioceses are apparently willing to finance the Synodal Committee. However, as the DBK pointed out in a press release, the planned funding through the Association of German Dioceses (VDD) must be approved unanimously. In other words, the planned funding will not be possible due to the veto of the four bishops mentioned above, so another source of funding will have to be sought. However, the DBK still stands by the plan agreed upon by the presidents of the Synodal Way - Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the DBK, and Irme Stetter-Karp, president of the ZdK - that the first meeting of the Synodal Committee will take place on November 10-11, 2023.

In a first reaction, the ZdK encourages most of the bishops to find an alternative source of funding. In this context, Irme Stetter-Karp considers "important reforms of the financial structure of the Church to be necessary in the long term". The ZdK president continues: "It is high time for the Church people and the bishops to jointly discuss priorities and the distribution of funds.

Whether or not a way can be found to fund and staff the "Synodal Committee," the veto of the four bishops has made clear the dissent caused by the German Synodal Way within the DBK.

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