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Pope Francis encourages us to continue on ‘Synodal Way,’ says German bishops’ leader after audience

Bishop Georg Bätzing, the chairman of the German bishops’ conference, said June 24 that he assured the pope that “rumors” that the German Church was seeking to diverge from the worldwide Church were untrue.

Bishop Georg Bätzing, chairman of the German bishops’ conference, meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican, June 24, 2021. (Vatican Media)

Vatican City, Jun 24, 2021 / 06:50 am (CNA).

Pope Francis encouraged the German Catholic Church to continue on its controversial “Synodal Way,” Bishop Georg Bätzing said Thursday after a private audience at the Vatican.

Bätzing, the chairman of the German bishops’ conference, said June 24 that he assured the pope that “rumors” that the German Church was seeking to diverge from the worldwide Church were untrue, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“I informed the pope in detail about the status of the Synodal Way and made it clear that the rumors that the Church in Germany wants to go its own way are not true,” he said in a statement on the German bishops’ conference website.

“Pope Francis encouraged us to continue on the Synodal Way, to discuss the questions at hand openly and honestly, and to come up with recommendations for a change in the way the Church acts.”

“At the same time, he called for the Church in Germany to help shape the path of synodality he proclaimed toward the Synod of Bishops in 2023.”

According to the Holy See press office, Bätzing saw the pope after Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which recently intervened in Germany over a proposal for intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants.

The German bishops’ conference posted a photograph of Bätzing, the bishop of Limburg, walking up a flight of stairs to his audience with the pope.

A photograph of the audience showed Bätzing greeting the pope with his head bowed and his zucchetto, or skullcap, in his hand.

The meeting came at a time of considerable upheaval in the German Church, after the influential Cardinal Reinhard Marx tendered his resignation to the pope, saying that the Church had reached a “dead end.”

The pope declined the offer, but acknowledged that the abuse scandal had plunged the Church into crisis.

In his statement on Thursday, Bätzing recalled his first private audience with the pope after his election as chairman of the German bishops’ conference, which took place in June 2020.

He said: “After my inaugural visit to Pope Francis as president of the German bishops’ conference a year ago, I was able to meet the Holy Father again today — after the long pandemic.”

“Our conversation focused first on the situation of the Church in Germany in view of the processing of the sexual abuse cases and the difficult situation in several dioceses. Pope Francis is well aware of the situation of the Church in Germany. He hopes that tensions can be overcome.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

German Church leaders and Vatican officials have clashed repeatedly over the Synodal Way, a process bringing together German bishops and lay people to discuss four main topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.

The German bishops initially said that the process would end with a series of “binding” votes — raising concerns at the Vatican that the resolutions might challenge the Church’s teaching and discipline.

The Vatican sent a letter to the German bishops declaring that the plans were “not ecclesiologically valid.”

After a back and forth between the bishops’ conference and Vatican officials, the Synodal Way began on Dec. 1, 2019. It is expected to end in February 2022.

A number of senior Church figures outside Germany have voiced fears that the Synodal Way will lead to a breach between German Catholics in Rome.

Three Catholics from the German Diocese of Essen have submitted a “dubium” to the Vatican asking if the Church in Germany is in schism.

Bätzing has insisted that the country’s Catholics are not “schismatics.”

CNA Deutsch reported that the theologian Katharina Westerhorstmann, a Synodal Way participant, recently suggested that the process should be suspended in light of plans to involve the worldwide Church in preparations for the 2023 synod on synodality in Rome.

In his statement, Bätzing said that he had informed the pope about the recent Ecumenical Church Congress in Frankfurt.

The Vatican had expressed concern in the run-up to the event that it would promote intercommunion between Catholics and Protestants despite significant theological obstacles.

The event culminated with the Catholic and Protestant leaders of the initiative publicly receiving communion in each others’ churches.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Concluding his statement, Bätzing said: “As I did a year ago, I feel strengthened by Pope Francis in my office as bishop of Limburg and in my task as chairman of the German bishops’ conference.”

“I am impressed by the balanced knowledge with which he perceives the situation of the Church in Germany and puts the problems into words. Pope Francis will accompany the Church in our country on the way out of the crisis.”


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20 Comments

  1. Pay attention to what Cardinal Kasper told the Passau diocese’s newspaper last week or the week before. That is the real opinion of Francis on the German Synodal Path. The pope is playing an elaborate game with the Germans. Note also that the focus of the meeting between pope and Batzing was on the abuse crisis not on female ordination et cetera.

    • JAD,
      I personally believe that Francis is pro-German Synod, but he’s required to “burn both ends of the candle” because he’s the Pope.

      • The idiom “to burn the candle at both ends” refers to living a very busy, hectic, or wild life, using up one’s time at twice the normal rate. You may have been thinking of an expression like having a “foot in both camps” or simply “sitting on the fence.”

  2. We might say the Pontiff has benevolent motivation to encourage Bishop Bätzing to discontinue his reckless Synodal wandering. Although it’s difficult to envision good coming from it. Pope Francis is markedly optimistic and has the penchant to perceive good that ordinary souls seem to miss. Amoris Laetitia is an example. Many believe that loosening the hawsers of moral doctrine has led to self affirming, unrepentant practice. Instead Francis says rigidity is old school, his approach has brought freedom, joy, and serenity. True, many of us miss these insights. “I am impressed by the balanced knowledge with which he perceives the situation of the Church in Germany and puts the problems into words. Pope Francis will accompany the Church in our country on the way out of the crisis” (Bätzing). Yes. Crises are temporary. Accompaniment is the way to broader horizons.

    • Fr Peter,

      I have read many of your comments, and I always find them enlightening, until now. Let me be specific.
      First, , specifically, what is “ the good that most souls seem to miss?”

      Second, Regarding Amoris Latitia. Is this Francis’ version of situation ethics?

      Third….and I must raise this….rigidity. The Pope seems to use this whenever he finds something objectionable, which means he defines rigidity as he sees fit. period. The word does not seem to have an objective meaning.

      I’ll stop there

      With prayers,
      VE

      • Virgil, I wrote satirically, expecting my comment to be read ‘between the lines’. Unfortunately it wasn’t clear. So I added below “broader horizons” to imply that which is beyond the pale. I’ll make it clearer therefore. I believe the Pontiff’s offer is a ruse, and merely intended to encourage the synodal process to continue within the Church as the means to radicalize the Church on moral and theological doctrine.

        • Thank you, Fr. Morello. My literal-mindedness prevented me from appreciating the humor in your post. I appreciate your exegesis.

  3. No serious Christian should listen to or take anything said seriously by the Pontiff Francis, aftrr he brazenly orchestrated idolatry in Rome in October 2013.

    He was not content in his towering arrogance to exercise his contempt for the lower Commandments for 5 years; he had to show his contempt for the 1st Commandment.

  4. Every time I hear or see the phrase “Synodal Way” I think of an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor describing how he is going to run an endoscope up my nasal passage “you’ll feel slight discomfort.”

    • That synodal pain is likely mild compared to what plans the demons have for the future, now that time is running out. Good luck then, I say now to the heretics.

      • P.S. One would have thought that Germans had learned a lesson or two from the country’s history. With genetic German blood in my veins, I see it as a cross. Perhaps it’s drinking water from the Rhine which has made morons of many.

  5. Last year, when being empaneled for a jury trial (a few days before COVID), one professional-looking candidate seated nearby was asked if she harbored “implicit bias,” one way or the other, toward neatly-uniformed police being called as crime witnesses. She responded, “no”, that her husband and other close relatives were policemen but, she also said, “I can tell bullshit when I hear it.” Dismissed on peremptory challenge. Probably too “rigid.”

    I used to think that the new game plan was to substitute “proportionalism” and “consequentialism” for moral decision making, but now I’m pondering the airbrush simplicity of the Fundamental Option of the 1960s, another deception exposed in by Pope St. John Paul II’s Veritatis Splendor (1993).

    Wondering, too, how Bishop Batzing “made it clear that the rumors that the Church in Germany wants to go its own way are not true,” when the apparent endgame of Germania’s synodal path is well-published—female ordinations, intercommunion, sexual license, and temporary ordinations subject to routine oil changes. This, plus the established synodal big-tent model of Apostolic Succession with “binding” decisions admitting of no further dissent (“rigidity”).

    Whether all this can be diluted and submerged into a mix of less-invertebrate synodal activity seems to be a possible Pope Francis strategy, some say, but thinking now with another German, this “synodal path” is what the Prussian military strategist Karl von Clausewitz called-out as the “drop of poison” in the punchbowl.

  6. The article says “Pope Francis encouraged us to continue on the Synodal Way, to discuss the questions at hand openly and honestly, and to come up with recommendations for a change in the way the Church acts.” Jesus did NOT give the Synodal Way. He gave the keys of heaven to Peter and the power to bind and loose on earth to be bound and loosed in heaven.
    The Holy See AND Pope Francis seem NOT to know this! Final decisions are to be made by the Pope, period. If Francis cannot handle HIS responsibility he should step down and give the Church a Pope who will act and manage Christs church the way He wanted it to be. Period. At a time when the Church across the world need clarity, Francis come up with a statement like this! Sometimes I think Francis has no idea of the impact of the things he says and the way he acts. This is a sign of poor leadership. Germany will go, but they better NOT call themselves Catholic because they won’t be.

  7. The Pontiff Francis loves church theater, does he not?

    What refined melodrama ensues from a life of playing to the audience…

    As Chris Altieri observed in this unvarnished assessment, the Pontiff should have resigned, if he had any grasp of what responsibility really means.

    But alas, as Altieri observes, the Pontiff Francis “doesn’t even talk s good game.”

    Read it here:

    https://catholicherald.co.uk/pope-francis-and-cardinal-marx-do-a-dance/

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