The Vatican’s statements on the German Synodal Way: a timeline

The Vatican’s statements on the German Synodal Way: a timeline

He says he had told the leader of Germany’s Catholic bishops, Bishop Georg Bätzing, the country already had “a very good evangelical church” and “we don’t need two.”
“The problem arises when the Synodal Path comes from the intellectual, theological elites and is much influenced by external pressures. There are some dioceses where the Synodal Way is being developed with the faithful, with the people, slowly,” he says.
July: The Holy See intervenes in the German Synodal Way on July 21, warning of a “threat to the unity of the Church.”
“In order to safeguard the freedom of the people of God and the exercise of the episcopal ministry, it seems necessary to clarify that the ‘Synodal Way’ in Germany does not have the power to compel bishops and the faithful to adopt new forms of governance and new orientations of doctrine and morals,” reads a statement that Pope Francis says came from the Secretariat of State.

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September: Cardinal Kurt Koch says that Pope Francis has expressed concern about the Church in Germany.
The president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity tells the magazine Herder Korrespondenz on Sept. 22 that he believes the pope backed an intervention by the Vatican’s doctrinal office in a debate over intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants. 
October: According to Bishop Heinz-Josef Algermissen, Pope Francis expressed “dramatic concern” about the Catholic Church in Germany when they spoke after the general audience on Oct. 7.
The Fuldaer Zeitung reports that the pope told Algermissen that the Synodal Way was too focused on “political questions” such as the position of women in the Church and priestly celibacy.
June: Pope Francis sends a 28-page letter to German Catholics on June 29 calling for a focus on evangelization in the face of the “erosion” and “decline of the faith” in the country.
(Story continues below)

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In his letter, he issues a warning about the German Synodal Way, a process announced by Cardinal Marx the previous March. The pope says: “What this entails in concrete terms and how it unfolds will certainly require further consideration.”
September: In a letter sent to German bishops, the Vatican says plans for a binding Church synod in Germany were “not ecclesiologically valid.”
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, then-prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, also sends Marx a four-page legal assessment of the German bishops’ draft statues, in which are raised a series of concerns about the proposed structure and the participants in the German Synodal Path.
It concludes that the German bishops are not planning a national synod but instead a particular Church council — something they cannot conduct without explicit Vatican approval.

Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency’s senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.

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