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The German Church calls for reforms in Rome

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There are quarrels which, because of their protagonists, take on a very special symbolism. Able to summon ghosts from the past that no one wants to see return. This is the case with the ongoing confrontation between the German episcopate and the Holy See, which reminds everyone that it is from Wittenberg, in the XVIe century, when, with the Reformation, came the last earthquake that fractured the Church.

Nothing of the sort for the moment, but the current tensions make some people fear the worst. At the origin of the storm, the engagement by the German episcopate of a “synodal path” in 2019, under pressure from lay people sickened by revelations of sexual violence in several dioceses. It was about starting a big discussion about the changes to be made to the Catholic Church so that this does not happen again. At the heart of the reflections, four themes considered particularly daring in the institution: the exercise of power in the Church, the priestly way of life, the role of women and sexual morality.

This approach, the conclusions of which must be submitted to Rome in March 2023, the German bishops came to discuss with the Holy See from November 14 to 18. At the end of their exchanges, a press release signed by the two parties mentioned “the concerns aroused by the synodal journey” in Rome and “the risk of a reform of the Church” instead of “Reforms in the Church”according to the expression of Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State and number two of the Holy See.

Request for “moratorium” rejected

Cardinals Luis Ladaria and Marc Ouellet, respectively responsible for the dicasteries (departments of the Roman curia) for the doctrine of the faith and for the bishops, also expressed their opposition to the German approach during the meeting. The two prelates have “spoke frankly and clearly of the concerns and reservations regarding the methodology, contents and proposals of the synodal journey”. Cardinal Ouellet went so far as to ask for a “moratorium” German thinking. The request was rejected, but it shows the tension that exists today between Rome and one of its biggest financial contributors.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers The German Catholic Church reframed by the Holy See

The German bishops therefore left Rome with mixed feelings. “I go home with real relief because we said things to each other. But I also return with some concern because I am unable to assess the direction in which the synodal dialogue that has been initiated is going”, said the president of the German episcopate, Georg Bätzing, on November 19, during a press conference at the Vatican. Back in their diocese, several of the sixty-one German bishops who were in Rome with him also spoke. While all praised the quality and cordiality of their exchanges with the members of the Roman curia as well as with the pope, whom they met for two hours, some acknowledged that this stay in Rome had above all made them take the measure of the gap that has grown between the Church of Germany and the Vatican.

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