The Synodal Committee is composed of the chairman and the vice chairman of the German bishops’ conference and the president and vice president of the powerful lay Central Committee of German Catholics (Zdk).
The Synodal Assembly consists of the German bishops, 69 ZdK members, and representatives of other parts of the German Church.
The second meeting of the Synodal Assembly ended abruptly in October 2021 following votes in favor of a text endorsing same-sex blessings and a discussion of whether the priesthood is necessary.
In his letter, Voderholzer said that participants were told that they could discuss gender-neutral language for Synodal Way texts at the next assembly on Feb. 3-5.
But he noted that the item did not appear in the agenda for the February meeting and an invitation to the event explained that the debate would take place at the fourth Synodal Assembly on Sept. 8-10.
“This is justified by the fact that only then do the deliberations on a text of the Synodal Forum IV about trans- and intersexual persons take place,” he wrote.
He added: “From my point of view, this justification is not valid. The debate about gender spelling has been going on in public for years. Scientific contributions on this can be found by everyone in sufficient numbers.”
“In order to be able to conduct this debate in a meaningful way, the Synodal Assembly is not dependent on a resolution of Synodal Forum IV.”
Voderholzer concluded: “I request that the third Synodal Assembly, as announced and recorded in the minutes of the second Synodal Assembly, deal with the topic of ‘Gender spelling in texts of the Synodal Way’ in a separate agenda item.”
“Logically, this debate must be held before the final adoption of texts of the Synodal Way.”
At the start of 2022, Pope Francis received a manifesto, backed by almost 6,000 Catholics, challenging the Synodal Way.
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The pope was presented with the document, “New Beginning: A Manifesto for Reform,” after his general audience on Jan. 5.
He addressed concerns about the Synodal Way in an interview with the Spanish radio station COPE aired in September 2021.
Asked if the initiative gave him sleepless nights, the pope recalled that he wrote an extensive letter expressing “everything I feel about the German synod.”
Responding to the interviewer’s comment that the Church had faced similar challenges in the past, he said: “Yes, but I wouldn’t get too tragic either. There is no ill will in many bishops with whom I spoke.”
“It is a pastoral desire, but one that perhaps does not take into account some things that I explain in the letter that need to be taken into account.”