Pope Francis tells German Catholics to focus on evangelization

Vatican City, Jun 29, 2019 / 03:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis sent a 5,700 word letter to Catholics in Germany Saturday calling for a focus on evangelization in the face of the “erosion” and “decline of the faith” in the country.

“The current challenges as well as the answers we give demand a long maturation process and the cooperation of an entire people over years,” Pope Francis wrote in a letter published June 29.

“This stimulates the emergence and continuation of processes that build us as God’s people, rather than seeking immediate results with premature and medial consequences that are fleeting because of lack of deepening and maturation or because they do not correspond to the vocation we are given,” he continued.

In his letter, Pope Francis issued a warning about the “synodal path,” a process announced by Cardinal Reinhard Marx. The pope said,“What this entails in concrete terms and how it unfolds will certainly require further consideration.”

The German bishops’ conference decided in March that the issues of priestly celibacy, the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, and a reduction of clerical power would be subject to a process  “synodal progression” that could lead to a binding, but as yet undetermined, outcome.

“Synodality presupposes and requires the action of the Holy Spirit,” Francis said in the letter.

The pope warned, “despite all serious and inevitable reflection, it is easy to fall into subtle temptations … therefore caution should be exercised, since they, anything but helpful to a common path, hold us in preconceived schemes and mechanisms that end in alienation or limitation of our mission.”

“What is more, if we are not aware of these temptations, we easily end up with a complicated series of arguments, analyses and solutions with no other effect than to stay away from the real and daily encounter with the faithful people and the Lord,” he said.

The pope also reiterated concerns he raised with the German bishops during their ad limina visit in Rome in November 2015 in which he had already noted a grave lack of participation in the sacraments among Catholics in Germany. He challenged bishops to “pastoral conversion” and warned of “excessive centralization.”

“To accept and endure the present situation … is an invitation to face what has died in us and in our congregations, which requires evangelization and visitation by the Lord,” Francis said. “But this requires courage, because what we need is much more than structural, organizational or functional change.”

The church in Germany has been embroiled in a number of controversies in recent months, several of which have also led to tensions with the Vatican, in particular pertaining to the practice of giving communion to protestants who are married to Catholics — a practice now officially established in several German dioceses — along with the practice of giving communion to divorced and remarried Catholics.

According to research recently published by the University of Freiburg, the number of officially registered Catholics in Germany will halve by 2060.

“The forthcoming process of change cannot respond exclusively to external facts and needs, such as the sharp decline in the birth rate and the ageing of communities, which do not allow a normal generational change to be considered,” Pope Francis said. “A true process of change … makes demands that arise from our Christianity and from the very dynamics of the evangelization of the Church; such a process requires pastoral conversion.”

“Pastoral conversion reminds us that evangelization must be our guiding criterion par excellence, by which we can recognize all the steps we are called to take as an ecclesial community; evangelization is the real and essential mission of the Church,” he said.

Anian Christoph Wimmer contributed to this report.

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  1. A flood of meaningless and vapid logorrhea from Pope Frankenstein. Thanks be to God that the number of “Catholics” in Germany will halve by 2060. Yes, it’s taken time for the fruits of Vatican II’s New Pentecost to manifest themselves. Perhaps with the Spirit of the Amazon Synod this result will be realized by 2020.

  2. In the end, in all of the mixed messages coming from on high, are we simply witnessing what is nothing more than a snit between the Jesuit (dis)Order and the Dominican Order sort of thing (e.g., Rahner v Congar)? If so, too bad the Vatican itself and the whole Church has become a casualty…

    After Cardinal Ladaria, S.J. head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, declined to endorse the internally-contested German proposal to give the Eucharist to the spouses of Catholics (2017), Pope Francis, S.J., was reported as saying less publicly to the Germans that their initiative was simply “premature.” Bad timing, that’s all.

    So, TRANSLATION (?): keep moving to the left, but not so fast that “rigid conservatives” can’t be waltzed into step. Consensus = the future, and the future = the Holy Spirit? Or, is it still the ghost of Karl Rahner, S.J., that now hovers over the waters?

    Said RAHNER: “Religion understands itself and can be understood ONLY by reference to the future, which it knows as ABSOLUTE and as coming to both individual man and all mankind. Its interpretation of the past occurs in and through the PROGRESSIVE DISCLOSURE [“development of doctrine”?] of the approaching future, and the sense and meaning of the present are based on a hopeful openness to the absolute future’s IMMINENT advent…Thus, the real NATURE OF MAN can be defined precisely as the possibility of attaining the absolute future—-not this or that particular state of affairs which is always encompassed by another and greater future still unrealized…and which, therefore, is RELATIVIZED and known to be such. In this sense, Christianity is the religion of BECOMING, of history, of SELF-TRANSCENDENCE, of the FUTURE. …For it…everything is understandable in relation to what is still unrealized” (Karl Rahner in an article: “Marxist Utopia and the Christian Future of Man” (cited incompletely by Thomas Molnar, “Christian Humanism”, 1978, pp. 52-3, CAPS added).

    Like Rahner, SJ. (Jesuit), YVES CONGAR, O.P. (Dominican) was another periti leader at the Council.

    From CONGAR, this: “We are under the new and definitive revelation. What belongs to it as its essence can no longer change and CANNOT BE SUPERCEDED: the statement of apostolic faith, the sacraments, the apostolic authority, in other words the priesthood, the magisterium and the power. Whatever structures the Church cannot be changed; it is given, it is final, it is not subject to reform.” (Yves Congar, True and False Reform in the Church, 146, CAPS added).

    Too much “fixity”? But then, this from the Second Vatican Council:

    “The Christian dispensation, therefore, as the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away, and we NOW AWAIT NO FURTHER PUBLIC REVELATION before the glorious manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf 1 Tim 6:14, Tit. 2:13)” (Dei Verbum, 4, CAPS added)

    Actually, an intricate MIRABILE DICTUM (wonderful to relate): rather than any one-sided evolution into “the” future, how in truth do the definitive divine Revelation and our understanding in less-than-divine human history intermingle? This reader is no theologian, but a two-sided dialogue, at least (on the dubia for example), would be more respectful and respected than any sequence of apparently scripted synods.

    On balance, what does it really mean when it is said—-wisely—-that “Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living, but TRADITION (!) is the living faith of the dead”?

  3. The right thing to do would have asked each and every one of the German Bishops to resign for their demolition of the Catholic Church in Germany and support for heterodoxy. Their ministry has become ineffective which is an acceptable reason for resignation (CIC 1740).

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