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Vatican to German Bishops: The Risk of “Reforms of the Church and Not in the Church”

(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 18.11.2022).- On Friday morning, November 18, an inter-dicasterial meeting was held at Rome’s Augustinianum Institute, which was attended by Heads of some Dicasteries of the Roman Curia and the 62 Bishops of the Catholic Church in Germany, present in Rome for their ad Limina Apostolorum visit. 

The meeting had been planned for some time, as an opportunity to reflect together on the Synodal Path underway in Germany, convoked in response to the cases of sexual abuse of minors by clergymen.

The Cardinal Secretary of State, His Eminence Pietro Parolin, was the moderator of the meeting, who, on opening the works, recalled the bond of communion and love  that unites Bishops among themselves and with the Successor of Peter and, underscored the importance of the meeting as a moment of sharing and of grace, of unity in differences, mentioning the concerns that the Synodal Path arises, and pointing out the risk of “reforms of the Church and not in the Church.” 

In his opening address, Monsignor Georg Bätzing, Bishop of Limbourg  and President of the German Episcopal Conference, gave a reading of the works of the German Synodal Path, and pointed out its spirit, based on listening to the People of God and the pain of the abuses committed by members of the clergy. Archbishop Bätzing also enumerated the subjects addressed in the assemblies: Power and Division of Powers in the Church – Community Participation and Missionary Planning; Priestly Life Today; Women in the Ministries and Posts in the Church; Live in Relations that Function – Live Love in Sexuality and in Relationships. Finally, Monsignor Bätzing was grateful for the work of the Synod convoked by the Holy Father for the whole Church and the decision to extend its time. 

Then the theological reports of Cardinals Luis Francisco Ladaria, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, talked frankly and clearly about the concerns and reservation on the methodology, content and proposals of the Synodal Path, proposing, in benefit of the unity of the Church and her evangelizing mission, that the petitions that have arisen up to now be included in the Synod of the universal Church. 

Numerous German Bishops and Representatives of the Curia took part in the open dialogue afterwards. Thus, the importance arose and also the urgency to define and reflect further on some of the questions highlighted, for example, those relating to the structures of the Church, the sacred ministry and access to it, Christian anthropology, etc. At the same time, there was the full awareness on the part of all that they are on the path with all the whole and patient People of God, including in the confrontation between different positions. In fact in this connection, many interventions pointed out the centrality of evangelization and the mission as the ultimate objective of the processes underway, as well as the awareness of the unavailability of certain subjects. 

In this perspective of open and fraternal exchange, several proposals were made, such as applying a moratorium to the German Episcopal Path, which has not found space, and of fomenting greater reflection and mutual listening in the light of the perplexities that have arisen.

To conclude, the Cardinal Secretary of State expressed his gratitude for the debate, which was not formal, but necessary and constructive, and which ”cannot be obviated” in the paths that are being followed.

 They agreed to continue with mutual listening and dialogue in the next months, to contribute to the enrichment of the German Synodal Path and of the universal Synod of the Church. 

Translation of the Italian original into Spanish by ZENIT’s Editorial Director and, into English, by Virginia M. Forrester