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Catholic Church: Synodal Path – Vatican renewed criticism of reforms by German Catholics


High-ranking Vatican officials have spoken out against an important decision of the Synodal Assembly. The intervention was triggered by a letter from Cardinal Woelki of Cologne and bishops critical of the reform.

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Pope Francis (r.), Bishop Prefect Marc Ouellet


The Vatican has been following the reform process of German Catholics extremely critically for a long time - now it has once again registered additional concerns.

The German Bishops' Conference published a letter on Monday that high-ranking Vatican officials wrote to the President of the Bishops' Conference, Georg Bätzing.

In it, they oppose an important decision of the Synodal Assembly, the most important body in the Synodal Way reform process.

In September, the synodal assembly in Frankfurt am Main decided that bishops, church employees and so-called lay people – baptized but not ordained believers in the congregations – should remain in permanent contact in the future.

A synodal committee is planned for this purpose, which is to prepare a synodal council by 2026.

In this body with nationwide responsibility, clerics and lay people should consult and decide together.

However, the Vatican had already made it clear last summer that the Germans were not authorized to create new governing bodies.

The letter that has now been written says that they want to "make it clear that neither the synodal path nor any body set up by it nor a bishops' conference have the authority to set up the 'Synodal Council' at national, diocesan or parish level".

The letter is signed by Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, a kind of Vatican Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, which monitors the observance of Catholic doctrine, and Bishop Marc Ouellet.

All three are among the most powerful members of the Roman Curia, the central administration of the Catholic Church.

The intervention of the Vatican was triggered by a letter from the Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki and the bishops of Eichstätt, Augsburg, Passau and Regensburg, who are all skeptical to negative about the synodal path reform process.

They had asked the Vatican whether they had to or were allowed to participate in the synodal committee that had been decided.

“No one questions the authority of the episcopate”

Bishop Bätzing rejected the Vatican's concerns in a press release.

The concern that a body could arise here that stands above the bishops' conference or could undermine the authority of the individual bishops is "unfounded," explained Bätzing.

"No one questions the authority of the episcopate," he asserted.

The synodal path of German Catholics strives for reforms in the areas of the position of women in the Church, dealing with power, Catholic sexual morality and the prescribed celibacy of priests (celibacy).

The Vatican rejects the desired innovations and even sees the danger of a schism in the church.


Source: spiegel

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