Bosnian cardinal: Synodal Way’s ‘exotic ideas’ alien to a Church that survived communism

Cardinal Vinko Puljić in Marija Bistrica, Croatia, in 2012 Cardinal Vinko Puljić in Marija Bistrica, Croatia, in 2012./ Ktabkbih.net via Wikimedia.

A Bosnian cardinal has said that the “exotic ideas” of Germany’s “Synodal Way” are alien to a Church that survived communism.

Cardinal Vinko Puljić was asked in a May 6 interview with the German Maria 1.0 initiative whether Catholics in his Archdiocese of Sarajevo were engaged with issues such as women’s ordination and the abolition of clerical celibacy.

He said: “A Church that has weathered the challenge of communism does not have such exotic ideas. Indeed, such attitudes offend and astonish our believers. We cannot understand a Church in which sacrifice is a foreign word and there is a Jesus without a cross.”

He continued: “There can be discussions on any subject, but based on the Gospel and not based on secularism and relativism. Religious arbitrariness has made itself at home in the life of the Church, but we must return to the original Gospel.”

The 75-year-old cardinal has served as archbishop of Sarajevo since 1991. Born in Banja Luka in 1945, he experienced both communist rule and the violent break-up of Yugoslavia.

Maria 1.0 was launched in 2019 in response to the formation of a group calling itself Maria 2.0 that campaigns for women priests and has organized “church strikes.”

Maria 1.0 asked Puljić what advice he would give the German bishops amid concerns that the Synodal Way could lead to a schism in the Church.

“It only remains for me to pray to the Holy Spirit so that he enlightens everyone personally and all together, especially those who lead the Church in Germany,” he replied.

“May the divine come first. I would not pretend to be a judge, but I cannot accept such views.”

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, noted that Puljić joins a growing number of bishops outside Germany voicing alarm at the Synodal Way and other developments in the German Church.

They include Australian Cardinal George Pell, Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, England, and Bishop José Ignacio Munilla Aguirre of San Sebastián, Spain.

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.

German Catholics recently held a day of protest against the Vatican’s declaration in March that the Church does not have the power to bless same-sex unions.

Priests and pastoral workers defied the Vatican by conducting blessing ceremonies attended by same-sex couples.

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Following the Vatican intervention, several German bishops expressed support for blessings of same-sex couples, while churches displayed LGBT pride flags, and a group of more than 200 theology professors signed a statement criticizing the Vatican.

Maria 1.0 asked Cardinal Puljić how he thought Pope Francis would respond to the Church in Germany.

“I can neither predict nor influence what the pope will do. If he should ask for my opinion, I will make clear to him the opinion of the suffering Church,” he commented.

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