Second Synodal Assembly: At the end there is relief – but there is also sharp criticism

NSThe German Catholics closed the second synodal meeting of their reform process on Saturday with “clear decisions about the direction”. He was “incredibly moved” because so much had been achieved during the three-day meeting, the chairman of the German bishops’ conference, Georg Bätzing, said at the end. “No text was rejected.”

However, there was one shortcoming at the end: the meeting had to be terminated prematurely because there were too few members in the room and the committee was no longer quorate. A number of members had apparently left prematurely.

As chairman of the Synodal Way, Bätzing had tabled a motion to determine the quorum. Accordingly, only 149 delegates attended, with 154 being the quorum for the quorum. Bätzing then stated that he made the request intentionally because he was shocked by the number of people who had left on Saturday. He did not agree with that, said the Limburg bishop. He does not want decisions to be taken in dubious votes.

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Reform process “synodal road”

Nevertheless, Bätzing praised very involved participants who had gotten a lot off the ground in very intensive working days – in the first reading 13 texts were adopted, concerning for example more participation of the faithful, sexual morality or the role of women.

Many participants went to Frankfurt with great reluctance – including Thomas Sternberg, chairman of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK). “The mood was really bad,” Sternberg admitted on Saturday. “There was anger and anger.” Bätzing also spoke of the high emotional tension of many synodal members given Rome’s recent decision to retain bishops over abuse cases.

“The Spirit of Frankfurt”

But at the end of the second synodal meeting, the Bishop of Osnabrück, Franz-Josef Bode, felt the “spirit of Frankfurt” again. Is the spirit of the democratic movement, for which the Paulskirche in Frankfurt stands, also an opportunity for the Catholic Church, which, given the way in which it has handled the abuse scandal, is also massively criticized by believers who have remained faithful to it so far? ?

“We showed that synodality is possible,” Sternberg said at the end of the three-day meeting. There were no personal attacks, despite very different convictions.

“You shouldn’t let the discussion lines break through,” says ZdK vice-chairman Karin Kortmann. “There’s still a lot of begging and urging.” It is also provoked to be heard from Rome. So far there has been no conversation between representatives of the Vatican and ZdK – an opportunity for Kortmann to call the Papal Nuncio Nikola Eterovic back at the door: “Please don’t go yet – your car is waiting”, she assured the ambassador of the Vatican after some of the participants fought for the exit before the closing prayer.

It would be good if the nuncio to Pope Francis “reports on a more philanthropic and more participatory church,” Kortmann said. “It would be very helpful if we could finally have a conversation with Rome that we’ve been waiting for so long. Our bags are packed.” And letters can also be answered, the vice-chairman of ZdK added.

‘The train is heading for reforms’

For the reform movement “We are Church” the process of the Synodal Way is irreversible. “The trend is towards reforms and cannot be reversed,” Christian Weisner of the Federal Church People’s Movement team of the German Press Agency said at the end of the second synodal meeting in Frankfurt. The Vatican’s behavior is problematic.

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“It is absolutely clear that in Germany we do not want to and cannot change the universal church, but important solutions are being developed here,” said Weisner. However, because of the voting behavior at the first reading of the newspapers read during the Synodal Assembly, he had the impression that the majority of the bishops supported the decisions. It was clear from the start that the Synodal Road was not a walk in the park, but “a rocky road,” Weisner said. However, there is no alternative to the church. “This is the last chance.”

Cardinal Müller sharply criticized the reform process

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, former prefect of the Roman Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has strongly criticized the reform process of German Catholics. Anyone even half-informed knows that “for an audience outside the church this drama is about power and not about the truth of the gospel,” Müller told Germany’s news agency.

“This body, which is composed according to its own laws, has no magisterial authority,” Müller emphasized. “No Catholic is in any way bound by anything that is not bindingly proposed to be believed by the entire episcopate with the Pope at his head as the representative of the unity of the Church with her head.”

Müller also took the conservative Regensburg bishop Rudolf Voderholzer under protection. He had accused the reformers of using the abuse scandal to transform the Catholic Church. The chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Georg Bätzing, had described this as “a very illicit, very presumptuous statement”.

Müller said: “Apparently Bishop Bätzing lacks the arguments to objectively refute Bishop Voderholzer’s assumption. That’s why he gets personal. No bishop needs to ask the president of the conference for permission to make his statements or be trained by him.” From 2012 to 2017, Müller led the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The authority guards the purity of Catholic teaching.

The Synodal Assembly is the main body of the current reform process of German Catholics, the Synodal Way. It deals with four themes: the position of women in the church, dealing with power, Catholic sexual morality and priestly celibacy. At the end of the path, expected in 2023, concrete reforms should have been implemented.

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