The German Synodal Path is a subject of discussion and controversy. The path is a series of conferences launched by Cardinal Reinhard Marx in 2019 bringing together German bishops and lay people to discuss four main topics: Power and separation of powers in the Church; life in successful relationships; priesthood’s meaning today; and women’s role in Church ministries and offices. The following are comments about the path made by Pope Francis in an interview with Associated Press, followed by a reaction by Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German Bishops Conference:

Pope Francis:

“The German experience does not help,” he said while promising that the universal Synod to be held at the Vatican in October would “help this more elitist [German] path so that it does not end badly, but so is also integrated into the Church.”

“The danger is that something ideological trickles in. When ideology gets involved in Church processes, ideology overcomes the Holy Spirit.”

“We must be patient, dialogue and accompany people on the real synodal path.”


Bishop Bätzing:

The Germans have “fundamentally different views of synodality” than Rome. He said the pope understood synodality to mean “a broad gathering of impulses from all corners of the Church, then bishops discuss it more concretely, and in the end there is one man at the top who makes the decision”.

“We in Germany are looking for a way of truly deliberating and deciding together without overriding the canonical regulations that affect the authority of the bishop.

“In Germany, we have already had the so-called Joint Conference since the 1970s, in which the Bishops’ Conference and the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) consult with each other, i.e. lay people and bishops. This Joint Conference has been given certain tasks. So the fallback option is: We stay with this model and just add important tasks to it that are feasible under Church law.”


(Compiled by Fr Joe Borg)

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