Mainz (kath.net) Georg Bätzing follows Reinhard Marx. The Bishop of Limburg is taking over the office of President of the German Bishops’ Conference from the Cardinal of Munich. The “new guy” is a protégé of Cardinal Marx, whom he knows very well from their collaboration in their time in Trier. He knows how to speak courteously. And he stands for Marxian continuity. His first press conference right after his election made that clear. Supposedly he was completely surprised and had not counted on being elected—although the day before the Bishops’ Conference met the rumor could be heard that he was the clear favorite, especially of the bishops from Southern Germany.
It is to be hoped that this will prove to be a good choice. The Marx-protégé is backing togetherness. He wants, he says among other things, to speak to everyone, to take everybody seriously, for everyone deserves to be heard. A good start. Actual practice will show to what extent a lived reality can develop in the Church from this theory in principle. For the Church, we may nevertheless hope, is truly predestined to demonstrate—to a society which frequently draws boundaries and excludes, which operates more with overall condemnations than with a tried and true ability to discuss matters—how dialogue works and what makes a real culture of debate possible.
Who can tell right now what Bätzing means when he says that the spectrum of societal convictions is reflected in the college of bishops?! Surely the Bishop of Limburg knows that it is not the primary task of bishops to reflect societal opinions. The standard for those who as pastors are teachers in matters of faith and morals is not even the promulgated opinion, but rather the Son of God, Jesus Christ. By the way, He did not appear in the first statement of the new President. Unfortunately. Instead the President spoke right at the start about the “German” Church—a term which is theologically incorrect but in fact not something conjured out of thin air. Of course from the Catholic perspective that doesn’t exist at all, but rather “only” the universal Catholic Church instantiated as the Church in Germany.
Bätzing made no secret of his enthusiasm for the so-called Synodal Way. He mentions it repeatedly. Again and again. And he is convinced that in that endeavor all the emphases have been placed correctly. The study on abuse showed the way. Strange that not one of the journalists present ever asks whether perhaps there shouldn’t be above all a New Evangelization, or what the new President thinks about the mission work of the Church in (!) Germany. This dimension was entirely lacking—at least during the first appearance of the Conference President.
Meanwhile, in the newspaper Die Tagespost, [a weekly Catholic newspaper with subscribers in several German-speaking regions,] we read:
Bätzing took over as successor of Karl Cardinal Lehmann the presidency of the ÖAK (Ecumenical Working Circle) and was involved in the final redaction of the [Conference’s] just-published study on the Last Supper. He sees in that document an important and practicable step along the way to a visible unity of our two churches [i.e. the Catholic Church and the Lutheran-Evangelical Church], Bätzing emphasized when the document was made public. The bishop indicated moreover that there is no longer any obstacle between Protestants and Catholics to a common celebration of the Last Supper. He says that the discussion now must be brought into the Magisterium.
That too could be exciting and somewhat problematical for the Church in Germany. For until now it was still considered true that, for the valid consecration of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, sacramental ordination to the priesthood is required.
On the day of the election of Georg Bätzing as speaker and moderator of the college of bishops [in Germany], then, several questions arise. But the most important thing is to express a hearty wish for good luck and blessings, so that for the Church of Jesus Christ, who alone is and must remain the valid and true standard for the Church—even and especially in Germany—many blessings and much clarity may be made possible through the work of a bishop who surely means well and, according to his own statements, wishes to exclude no one.
Translated from German by Michael J. Miller
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