German Catholic bishops’ leader: ‘Synodal Way’ and Rome synod have ‘common goal’

Bishop Georg Bätzing, chairman of the German bishops’ conference Bishop Georg Bätzing, chairman of the German bishops’ conference. | Rudolf Gehrig/CNA Deutsch.

A leading German Catholic bishop welcomed Friday the new multi-year format of the synod of synodality, saying that it shares a common goal with his country’s “Synodal Way.”

Bishop Georg Bätzing said that the new global “process” for the synod unveiled in Rome May 21 would be “complemented” in Germany by the Synodal Way.

“The process of a global Synod of Bishops announced today in Rome will be complemented in Germany by the Synodal Way already embarked upon,” the chairman of the German bishops’ conference said.

“We will also contribute our experience of the Synodal Way to the active participation in the preparation and implementation of the Roman Synod of Bishops.”

“These are two different paths that have a common goal: to make the Good News of the Gospel visible and viable today under the ‘signs of the times.’”

The Synodal Way is a controversial 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.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that the permanent council of the German bishops’ conference will meet in June to discuss the synod on synodality, formally known as the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

The synod on synodality will start with a two-year consultative phase involving Catholic dioceses worldwide. It will officially open with a “diocesan phase” in October 2021 and conclude with an assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October 2023.

In his May 21 statement, Bätzing said that the new program for the synod underlined “the participation of the whole people of God in the development of the universal Church.”

Referring to the pope’s landmark address on synodality, he said: “In 2015, Pope Francis fundamentally outlined his ideas for a synodal Church. Today, these are experiencing a visible concretization, characterized above all by worldwide participation.”

“As never before, the people of God are being involved in the preparation and journey of the global Synod of Bishops.”

“This new form of synodality will, I hope, release a powerful impulse and dynamic forces to live up to the synod’s theme, ‘For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.’”

He said that Rome’s request to the world’s bishops to consult their flock in the first phase showed how Pope Francis understands synodality.

He said: “He is concerned with the communio (communion) of the Church, which is on a common journey. I expressly welcome this form of synodality and the underlying understanding of the Church.”

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“It is an opportunity for the entire universal Church that the faithful at the various levels of church life everywhere are invited to participate in this journey on the basis of common preparatory documents and questionnaires.”

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